Wednesday 23 February 2011

Barnacles at Mersehead

A week off provided the opportunity to head to Scotland for a birding trip and a chance to catch up with my brother in Stirling. My own family were staying with friends in Kent so after dropping them off on Sunday I started the long journey north on Monday morning. North of the Thames that is, to Rainham Marshes in the hope of seeing the Slaty-backed Gull which had been present for several weeks and for much of the previous day. It's a miracle it's lasted that long considering the stuff the gulls eat from the local landfill site - very stinky birding. Many Herring, Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls were present but no Slaty-backed. A female Hen Harrier and half a dozen Corn Bunting brightened up an otherwise dull day, and though picking through the gulls was educational, staring at a landfill site all day doesn't do much for the spirits.

After getting disappointing views of the Rufous Turtle Dove recently, and now no views of this, I was pretty raritied-out and ready for some proper birding. A dozen Waxwing on the hard shoulder of the M11 as I sat in a traffic jam heading north last night cheered me up, and Mersehead RSPB this morning provided further tonic. Barnacle Geese from the Svalbard population were fewer in number than nearby Caerlaverock, but whereas at the latter they are often quite distant, here the small flocks gave close views from the various tracks around the reserve. A Kingfisher and good numbers of Pintail were present along with more common waterbirds.

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