An old man out birding…

This weekend I waved goodbye to my twenties and hit the big three-zero. Much of it is, as a result, a bit of a haze, but I did manage a few trips out, and got one lifer for a birthday present!

On Friday, my actual birthday, Laura offered to drive to a bird-based place of my choice, and I decided on Martin Mere WWT, as it’s somewhere I’ve never been before and always wanted to. And of course a nice long-staying American wigeon that had been there for a few days didn’t inform my decision at all!

The wild half of Martin Mere is fantastic, and one of the best places to see wintering whooper swans in Britain, with several hundred wintering there. It’s a bird I always struggle to find round me, and it was great to see so many. There was also one of the biggest skiens of pink-footed geese I’ve ever seen overhead, with several hundred also visible in the fields. Pintail were among the wild ducks on show, posing nicely for pictures, and waders included around 40 avocet, as well as black-tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank and ringed plover.

The Mere

Hundreds of Whoopers!

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan.



After an unsuccessful attempt at the American wigeon before lunch, squinting through the hundreds of Eurasian wigeon dotted around to no avail, we made a second trip and got it straight away, as it handily loitered at the front of a flock.

American Wigeon

Spot the yank!

Afterwards we had a walk through the captive area (having a quick gawp at Wizzy the Beaver on the way). I’m increasingly less of a fan of captive bird collections, but at WWT reserves they generally seem happy and very well cared for, and they’ve done great stuff with captive breeding programmes for birds such as the Hawaiin Goose. And how can you not be charmed by a place where Hawaiin geese and snow geese chase after you in case you have some food for them?

I don’t post pictures of captives much on here, but a couple of exceptions…

Hooded Merganser (captive)
Hooded Merganser.

Ruddy Shelduck (captive)
Ruddy Shelduck.

On Saturday I had a university field trip to Calver Sough looking for signs of mammals (the day after my 30th… great timing!). It was a good trip out, and I got my first ever views of water vole, which were great to see. They were too quick to get any pictures of, so here’s a picture of one of their latrines instead. Don’t say I don’t treat my readers now and again!

Water Vole latrene

Somewhere along my travels I also saw a cracking goshawk overhead, but the usual sensibilities about this species means I can’t really divulge whereabouts. It was the best views I’ve ever got of this species, and a good end to the wildlifey side of the weekend.

The rest of Saturday was taken up with much revelry, and Sunday with recovering from it… Yes I know, I’m getting old…!


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My name is Pete

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