Heading north

Leaving a dark and windy Norfolk we then proceeded to follow every tractor in Lincolnshire as we wended our way to the outskirts of Skegness. For those blissful in their ignorance of Skegness, its slogan is ‘It’s so bracing’ although it might just as well be ‘It’s so distant’ in reference to the sea or ‘It’s covered in Donkey S**t’ as they still have the poor beasts of burden available on the beach in order to give little Romeo or Britney their first taste of animal related fear.

We didn’t bird at Skegness, just visited my Aunt, then we pressed on north to Wakefield. The authorities responsible for travel in the UK have come up with a scheme to torture travellers, something more effective than the Spanish inquisition which nobody expected. All UK roads have traffic speed cameras, had we suddenly got those in Quebec then our 260bn dollar debt (and counting!) would be cleared in the first weekend, this means that everybody drives at the speed limit like a load of mobile Stepford Wives. I have no idea how it is possible to twitch effectively these days with such draconian restrictions and you have to wonder about the knock on effect with their (note the tense) athletes. In Jamaica the drivers are speeding lunatics, subsequently they have regularly produced World record sprinters. In the UK the last great sprinters were around just before the drink driving regulations really bit – the fact that they were Scottish merely adds fuel to the stereotype but clearly, a life-saving sprint off the blocks was once essential to negotiate UK roads as a pedestrian. Now they have to hope that synchronised traffic crawling becomes an Olympic sport – if it does they will excel.

While in Yorkshire we went to the east coast, a nice strip north of Hornsea with some coastal scrub and very under-watched habitats. The weather was still pretty foul but Redwings were around and European race Robins lurked in every sheltered nook. A bonus was a Ring Ouzel, one of many along the east coast that day. Later bird news confirmed what I had suspected would happen. The weather cleared and a glut of rare and sub-rare birds arrived. After two nights it was now time to head north-west to Preston. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet we found out that four Glossy Ibis had been lingering in fields above the very highway we were taking so we naturally detoured. Glossy Ibis, like most ibis, can be less than confiding if not entirely nervous. This bunch just pottered around 15m from the road and, despite the overcast conditions, got their pictures taken.

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When in Lancashire we always try to get to a couple of the local reserves and two and a half years of financial prudence had allowed us to accumulate enough to pay for two adults to enter Martin Mere. The mere is an odd place. It holds a large wildfowl collection, a collection supplemented by many fine examples of Mallard. The wild bits are pretty good and skeins of Pink-footed Geese were coming in from the fields, more to avoid ramblers and shooters than anything else, and it was good to re-acquaint. Two Peregrines watched over the proceedings from nearby fence posts and 70+ Whooper Swans were the vanguard of the potato and grain hungry hoards that will spend the winter in the area. Trip ticks were few but it was good to wander through the site, tripping over the occasional flamingo.

The next day it was the turn of Leighton Moss, an RSPB reserve that is famous for Eurasian Bittern and Bearded Reedling, we saw neither and never have there. We did see a few things though, close Common Snipe, Marsh Tit and quite a few Black-tailed Godwits, they do a fair cooked breakfast too. To be fair the dark skies didn’t help much when it came to birding although we did get a short window of light when we did the shorebird hides. Our trip total is now 122 and I can’t really see too many more making the list, below a few of the snaps taken, albeit in mostly poor light.

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