Saturday, 30 January 2021

Coast To Coast

I can't believe that it is over a fortnight since I posted, and for that I apologise, but to be honest, I don't have a great deal to report. With the current lockdown here in the UK, that some take seriously and incredulously others don't, I haven't been getting out birding other than through work. I have thought about walking to some of my patches, and it is possible as a number of them are within about 5 km of home, but at this time of year birding is relatively quiet anyway. Once we get into late February things move on, with finches and buntings getting itchy feet and starting to move. 

We are still not ringing, other than in our gardens, and the same advice that applies to ringing, applies to all BTO surveys, and yet birders are still doing WeBS counts etc. I suppose the difference is that you have to have a licence to ring, and in theory if you go against BTO advice, they could put sanctions in place against your permit. I still believe that some survey work, both Ringing and WeBS, could be undertaken in a complete Covid secure way. Locally, you only have to have a walk along the coast and all the parking places are full, the sea front is rammed at weekend, and the beaches are full of people and dogs. As all the car parking places are taken, they can't be people that have walked from their own homes. I have never known the coast so busy at this time of year, and we are supposed to be in a lockdown!
I have a survey in northeast Lincolnshire at the moment, and I'll come back to that in a wee while, and when I travel from home to my survey site on the Humber Estuary early in the morning (0530-ish), the M62 across the Pennines is as busy as ever with commuter traffic. What happened to working from home during the lockdown? I appreciate that some people can't do their job from home, me being one of them, but when in the middle of a lockdown you can't notice any discernible difference in the volume of traffic, then something isn't right! In fact, of the three lockdowns that we have had so far, only the first one felt like a true lockdown!
I notice that on some bird news What's App groups, a few people are still putting details of scarce birds out; why? The point of these What's App groups is to disseminate information on scarce birds so people can twitch them, but in the middle of a lockdown! I am quite certain that the information could be added to local databases later in the evening or even a day or two later for now. 
Having said all that, I can understand people wanting to get out birding, botanising etc, for their own well-being, and mental health issues are already becoming a big part of this pandemic. Going birding etc maintains a bit of normality in one's life, and helps to take your mind off the serious situation we find ourselves living through at the moment. It's complicated, frustrating and difficult. I suppose I am quite lucky, in that my work gets me out in the field, and a lot of my survey work is even classed as essential by the government, because it is connected with planned development.
There are no easy answers, and the priority for all of us is to stay safe until we can get out the other end, and get back to some sense of normality, whatever that is or will be.
My Blog title refers to recent bird surveys that I have completed that have been quite literally coast to coast, with sites on the west coast and now a site on the east coast. 
In the middle of the month, I headed to my survey site that is virtually on the west coast of Lancs and it was cold, very cold in fact. I had only been at my VP for about half an hour when a mist rolled in, that turned to fog, and eventually I had to abort my survey because the visibility was very poor. As the mist/fog rolled in, it started to freeze on contact with every surface as the frosty looking photos below show. 
Hoar frost (above & below)


Just over ten days ago, I had my first visit to my new wintering bird survey site located on the Humber Estuary. A site with what you would describe as having a good habitat mosaic, and adjacent to the estuary, so from a pure birding perspective it looks like an interesting site. The only downside is the drive there which is about two and a half hours along seven different motorways! Yes, seven different motorways! 
My first visit coincided with high water, and as the tide started to run out, a number of waders and wildfowl dropped in to feed on the mud, including 55 Curlews, 572 Dunlin, 155 Black-tailed Godwits, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and 53 Redshanks.
Black-tailed Godwit
The habitat mosaic element of the site includes areas of dense scrub, open scrub/rank grassland, wet scrub, reed-fringed ditches, rank grassland and small shallow pools. There wasn't much utilising the habitat mosaic on this cold January morning, other than three Snipe, three Stonechats, 12 Skylarks, a Water Rail, seven Blackbirds, two Song Thrushes, 15 Goldfinches, a Reed Bunting and five Yellowhammers. However, when I come to do the breeding bird surveys later in the year, I think it will be hooching with warblers etc. 
At the start of the week, I was at my inland site with the area of marsh in northwest Lancs, and it was another cold morning with a heavy frost, some lying snow and three oktas of cloud cover. 
Buzzards were a feature of the morning and I had at least three at various points of the site. A male Stonechat was along the edge of the frozen marsh, and a Water Rail called form this area too. Some of the ditches alongside the marsh were unfrozen, probably because of the movement of water along them, and I flushed six Teal from one as I walked along. 
The frozen marsh
The unfrozen ditch
In the middle of the week, I was back in northeast Lincolnshire at my Humber Estuary site, and it was another cold morning with full cloud cover. As I walked through the scrubby areas of the site to get to my VP overlooking the estuary, I came across a group of four Roe Deer. Also in this area, I recorded five Meadow Pipits, four Skylarks, two Reed Buntings, a male Stonechat, a Buzzard and two Yellowhammers. 
My survey period was over low water, and again there was a nice assortment of waders and wildfowl feeding on the estuary at this location including 54 Curlews, 238 Shelducks, a Little Egret, a Ringed Plover, nine Grey Plovers (gorgeous birds; one of my favourite waders), 880 Dunlin, 94 Black-tailed Godwits, eight Bar-tailed Godwits and 26 Redshanks. 
It's going to be more of the same over the coming weeks I'm afraid, until we can ease out of lockdown, so there will be some more coast to coast trips for me.   

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