On a cold damp December Wednesday morning we met in Salt Lane to see whether Santa was going to bring us a present in the form some decent sightings on what, for most of us, could be counted our home ground. We started off at the little watchpoint recently fenced and provided with a gravel path. A number of small birds using the feeders quickly went into the notebook, including Wren, Coal Tit and the ever-present Tree Sparrows.
Along the edges of the Salt Pan, a Common Snipe was picked up, and a search revealed more, with the total rising to four. Other waders were winkled out from their hiding places with 4 Ruff and 5 Redshank among the many Lapwing. Larger waterbirds were scarce with just 2 juvenile Mute Swans and 2 Canadas, although several Shelduck were spotted. A pair of Pintail were the best of the smaller waterbirds.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker entertained at the feeding station, while 3 pale phase Buzzards were located on various perches around the Salt Pan.
We walked on to Elton Hall Flash and then Pump House Flash, though not much was added to the species already recorded. A promised Peregrine, on its usual perch high up on distant pylons, initially could not be found, to mild mockery from some quarters! A more careful scan revealed our quarry, and most had a look through the scope. The complaint by this time had segued into “Its not doing much, is it?”, when (obviously under orders from yours truly) the bird dived off the tower, down and away, gathering speed, ready to spoil Christmas for a Pigeon somewhere.
From there we moved on to Fields Farm Flashes, behind the railway line from the main flashes. As we strolled up the path, a Treecreeper worked the hedge, giving all excellent close views while totally ignoring us. As we reached the furthest point of our mooch (the River Wheelock) and turned for the cars, a small flock of swans were seen out towards Wheelock, heading south east. Santa had come up trumps with 4 Whooper Swans!
We ended our morning at Watch Lane Flash, where the almost guaranteed Great Crested Grebe fished, and a Song Thrush flew across the fishing lakes.
From there we gathered at the White Lion at Coppenhall for a Christmas lunch. With orders already in (thanks, Louise), we played some musical chairs before settling into the window area at the pub to enjoy good food and better company. See you next month, when Mere Sands and Marshside beckon, weather permitting.