Waking up early I thought I would brave the sub-zero temperatures to see whether I could catch up with some Owls, having failed to connect with any on the 1st. Skidding my way along Carr Lane I noticed a brown lump in the road; a Woodcock!! Cold snaps are great for catching up with them on patch and today was no different, seeing a further 3 along Carr Lane.
Pouring myself a coffee; I stood on the bridge on Carr Lane and quickly picked up Tawny Owl, Snipe, Water Rail and loads of calling Grey Partridge. A rather hurried splashing in the stream alerted me to 7 Tufted Duck trying to escape from just below my feet; an unseasonal record, usually not returning to patch until late March. Scanning the flooded field in near darkness I picked up 4 geese, who clearly didn't like me putting my tripod up.....but at least their 'wink-wink' call gave them away.
Pleased with the start I drove round to Hale Park, where a Barn Owl has reportedly been roosting and feeding recently. Sadly there was no sign; and the prospect of loosing my toes to frostbite made me move on quickly. Whilst getting into the car I noticed two large flocks of Cormorants, totalling in excess of 100 birds flying NW over?! Presumably local birds going to feed on the coast?
Moving onto Within Way, it was evident that the cold weather had pushed some birds in to the area, with 3 Yellowhammer and good numbers of winter thrushes feeding in the first field. The Little Owl put in a brief appearance in its normal roosting tree, and a Merlin bombed through causing the passerines to scatter.
Other than the normal coveys of Grey Partridge, the only noteworthy birds were the very large numbers of 'big' gulls on the move. Scanning the Mersey towards Pickerings/Runcorn there was almost a carpet of white, quite possibly the largest gull gathering I have seen on this section of the Mersey. What I should have done is gone straight round to Pickerings Pasture, but hindsight is a great thing!!
Scanning the Mersey from the end of Within Way I picked up a number of new birds for the year including Rock Pipit, Common Sandpiper, Great Crested Grebe and Med Gull; whilst 4 Pinkies that flew towards Frodsham Score were presumably the same birds that were earlier on Carr Lane. The gull numbers still looked very impressive, so I decided to give up and head round to Pickerings Pasture.
Despite it only taking about 20 minutes to get back to the car and around to the carpark at Pickerings, my decision was clearly flawed; with the mudflats nearly devoid of any gulls by the time I got there!! Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Siskins in the carpark lifted my mood, as did the small groups of waders including my first Knot and Golden Plovers of the year. Walking up to the White bridge I scanned the remaining Gulls (down to a measly 1000 or so) but found nothing of note. I finally picked up the 1w Shag; which seems to have relocated nearer to the Runcorn Bridge.