Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Med, Shrike and Otter

The rain was hammering down outside my house one Sunday lunchtime in March, and I was unsure whether I should visit Frodsham Marsh in Cheshire where a Great Grey Shrike had been seen the previous day. Would it still be there and how wet would I get tramping around the muddy lanes?
I decided to give it a go, but first I was going to check a flooded field near my house at Leasowe that had looked promising for gulls when I ran past the previous day.
The rain had eased off a little as I stopped my car near Leasowe lighthouse, but there were only half a dozen gulls on the flash. I wound down the car window and scanned the birds and was delighted to find a Mediterranean Gull in second winter plumage feeding alongside a few Black-headed Gulls. I leant my camera on the car door and proceeded to fire off a few shots. The bird moved closer and I was able to obtain some nice photographs, especially when it stretched and preened. I also took a few flight shots of this scarce British breeding bird. I know gulls aren't everyone's cup of tea but I love them, and I have a special fondness for med gulls.
I left the site feeling well pleased and headed for Frodsham. The rain was getting heavy again as I joined the M56 motorway and an unexpected traffic jam almost saw me turn the car around and head home. Instead I left the motorway and drove the rest of the way on A roads via Helsby.  I drove carefully along a pot-holed track on the marsh to the area where the shrike had been seen and yes, it was still there. I donned my waterproofs and wellies and made my way to the group of rain-soaked birders who soon put me onto the bird perched on a distant hedge. All shrikes are beautiful birds and the Great Grey is no exception, but in my experience they are quite wary so scope views are usually the norm. I managed a few record shots with my camera then hung around in the rain hoping it would come closer; and despite the inclement conditions it was busy feeding but it never really came close to the track. I was about to leave when another birder told me that an Otter was resting close to the road! I headed back down the path and was rewarded with my closest ever encounter with this elusive mammal. The female Otter stretched, rolled and scratched on the opposite side of a ditch within metres of a small group of admirers. Unfortunately, she appeared to have some problem with her eyes and this may explain her boldness. But otherwise she appeared perfectly healthy and it was a real treat to see her at such close quarters. A fabulous end to a great afternoon's birding on a soggy Sunday.