Picked up Bazzo first thing this morning (well, before 10am anyway) and we gave Marshside a look while the sun was still shining....
Good numbers of Lapwings (600+ on Marshside One), Little Egrets, a few Golden Plover, squadrons of Blackwits,hunting Peregrine and on the outer marsh, a gorgeous male Hen Harrier spooking larks and pipits as it stalled and sailed low over the vegetation.
Surprisingly it landed on one of the tide-borne branches far out once or twice (you can just make it out in the smudge shot here), when it wasn't being pestered by Merlins or mobbed by Carrion Crows.
Always great to watch one of these critters. Showed some blotchy on the wing coverts, so I don't think it's a full adult yet.
Rock Pipit in the Sandplant compound, with Mipits, Wrens, Dunnocks and Starlings, while about 500 Pink Feet feeding away on the outer marsh held no less than 12 Barnacle Geese, which wasn't what we expected - ferals?
19 Pochard on the Sandplant lagoon and a Water Rail squealing from cover, and the Great White Dot briefly visible out on Banks Marsh.
As the clouds came in and the December gloom descended (turn that bloody light on), we headed up to Hesketh Out Marsh, which was looking decidedly mean and moody.
Not much on the floods, but flocks of 35 and 50 Fieldfare in the hedgerows, 10 Grey Partridge scooting by over the fields behind the sea defence, and nicest of all, a flock of wild swans, made up of 70 Whoopers, 15 Bewick's and a single Mute.
They were a bit distant, but you can even make out five of 'em on the front right of this long range shot through the murk.
Bewick's round here these days are so scarce...not so long ago they were the commoner swan on the estuary in winter.
Met Tony Baker and he mentioned Graham Clarkson had counted 29 Bewick's yesterday here - best bet is follow the public footpath south from the car park and shelter, and keep checking the inland fields after about three quarters of a mile.
Speaking of Clarko, Alison Cook from the RSPB has sent me the following press release and pic about Knotweed clearing at Marshside, so resisting the temptation to crack cheap jokes about invisible accordions, I'll hand over to her...
"Staff and volunteers at the RSPB's Marshside nature reserve are locked in combat with an invasion of three-metre-high weeds that are threatening to destroy vital habitat for birds.
Originating from East Asia, Japanese knotweed is one of a number of foreign plants that are causing problems for our native flora and fauna after escaping from parks and gardens. The weeds have few natural enemies and have to be fought back to prevent them from taking over large swathes of the countryside.
At Marshside, the plant is growing in large clumps along the road embankments and is threatening to spread onto the marshes, which provides habitat for a huge number of birds including redshanks, black-tailed godwits and skylarks, as well as mammals such as hares and water voles.
Thanks to a grant of over ÃÂ£36,000 this year from landfill tax credit environmental fund Biffaward, the RSPB has been fighting back.
Graham Clarkson, site warden at Marshside said: "Japanese knotweed is very hard to kill. It has to be chopped down to its stem and then sprayed with herbicide up to nine times before it dies. We have been battling knotweed for the past year and have still only started tackling about one-fifth of it. Luckily, Biffaward is continuing to fund us next year so we can carry on combating this formidable foe."
Gillian French, Programme Manager for Biffaward said: "Biffaward is delighted to support this project, which has been led by RSPB's Marshside Nature Reserve and involved the local community. The conservation of our native plants and habitat is incredibly important and further development with this project will encourage us to learn more about our natural environment and will mean that more people will be able to enjoy the wildlife throughout the year."
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...