Thursday, 23 June 2016

Down by the seaside.

Yesterday I had a ride over to Ainsdale beach, near Southport, with my son, Jack, and the dogs and although we had primarily gone there for a walk I had my camera gear with me, just in case we came across anything interesting. This is a very popular stretch of coast but there were very few people about, as is to be hoped during weekday working hours outside the school holidays. In fact we only saw about ten people in the four hours we were there and some of them were in the distance.

We walked south along the strandline for a mile or so before gradually working our way out towards the incoming tide. The dogs got a good run but they were brought under control well before we got near to any roosting or feeding birds to avoid causing any disturbance.

Good numbers of Cormorants were gathered at intervals along the beach.
The vast majority of the Cormorants were pale-bellied sub-adults.
The incoming tide pushed some waders towards us and they were soon left huddled on a small sand bar as the tide raced in and around them. The majority were Knot but there were smaller numbers of Oystercatchers and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits.
Surprisingly the longer legged Oystercatchers were the first to leave the rapidly shrinking sand bar.
The Knot pushed closer and closer together as the tide rose.
Eventually they had to move.

The Knot didn't go far and they landed closer to us so I grabbed a few shots in the hope of finding a colour-ringed or leg-flagged bird. On reviewing the photos at home I didn't manage to pick out any colour-marked birds.

It wasn't long before the tide moved them and us on again.

I estimated that there were about 400 Knot and no I haven't gone through them to check.
Having enjoyed the unexpected spectacle provided by the Knot we headed back up the beach to one of the higher strand lines before slowly making our way back north. We hadn't gone far when my eye was drawn to a photo opportunity provided by roosting gulls, Oystercatchers and Cormorants with Blackpool Tower and the 65m high 'Big One' roller coaster on the horizon behind them.

The roller coaster and tower are approximately 20km and 22km north from this part of Ainsdale beach.
There were about 100 Cormorants in this roost including a few that are just out of the frame. 
Still heading north we walked closer to the dune edge and associated marshy areas at the top of the beach. This is quite a good area for nesting Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. It is also heavily walked which means the birds are used to seeing people and some of the Skylarks are particularly confiding.

I would like to claim that I intended to capture the flying bee in this photo but I obviously didn't. However, the Skylark is in there on purpose.
The Skylark was by a path and it allowed me to approach to within a few metres.
Squatting down changed the background to one of a hazy blue sky. The impressive hind claw can be clearly seen.
We moved on, leaving the Skylark to go about its business, and ventured further along the edge of the dunes. As we walked on a Little Egret flew south, to our left, along the top of the beach and a little while later a Grey Heron also flew south but this time to our right, over the edge of the dunes.

As big and as white as it is we nearly missed this Little Egret.

Grey Heron.
We ventured into the sand dunes for the final leg of the walk and the trail we followed was bordered with a good scattering of Pyramidal Orchids. Further along the trail our attention was drawn to the pink and white flowers of Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea that was growing up the side of one of the smaller dunes.

Pyramidal Orchid
Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea added a real splash of colour.
Almost back to the car park and the walk was rounded off with some feeding Jackdaws. That pale powder-blue eye on the lookout for any morsel of food.

Adult Jackdaw
All in all a good day and I am sure the dogs would say so too.

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