The day may have been grey with lowering cloud base, but we were blessed with unseasonably warm conditions which did much to raise enthusiasm for the day ahead. Close to 20 members gathered at the car park in Banks Road with ‘Happy New Year’ ringing around the group. The area to be covered was Speke/Garston Coastal Park which was developed on the former Speke Airport site. It comprises the Mersey estuary bounded by an area of brownfield land sitting adjacent to the Estuary Business Park. If such an area might suggest a dearth of birdlife we were to be pleasantly surprised. This urban reserve features a range of habitats including salt marsh, tidal flats, clay cliffs and grassland.
The estuary soon yielded Teal, Cormorant, Little Black-backed Gull, Redshank, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Herring gull and Dunlin. Despite the poor light conditions, as eyes became accustomed to the poor contrast of sediment, rocks and seaweed we soon identified Turnstone and Ringed Plover and, thanks to those with scopes, we were able to get up close and personal to them. As we continued along the coastal path we approached the multi-million pound Liverpool Sailing Club building. The warden saw a group of 20 enthusiasts as a possible market for membership and he was keen to invite us in for a guided tour. We declined his kind invitation, but felt that at least we’d provided some conversation for the poor guy who seemed desperate for human interaction! Just past the sailing club we moved inland towards the business park where more treats awaited us. Some members of the group formed a ‘flushing’ party while the rest of us moved ahead of them ready to see what their activities might achieve. We were not to be disappointed as very quickly several Skylarks took flight. The best was yet to come as we were treated to several Common Snipe taking flight, with the best moment being sight of a Jack Snipe. Seeing both species of snipe close together enabled us to understand the contrasting flight behaviours of both. The Jack Snipe returns to land quickly and, as eagle-eyed members had seen it land, the flushing party moved on to flush it out again. Brilliant! We returned to the car park on a high and delighted that, between us we had ‘ticked’ around 30 species.
Some friends had to leave us at the car park, but about a dozen folk continued on to Sefton Park lake. The warm weather had tempted many people out so the path around the lake was busy. We quickly identified Canada Goose, Common Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe, but the highlight at this point was a Mediterranean Gull. Sighting it at relatively close proximity enabled us to see that magnificent blood-red bill with the black hood in its more subdued winter form. From the end of the lake we moved towards the woodland close to the Palm House. Here we were rewarded with sights of Jay, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, and the delightful Goldcrest and Treecreeper. The walk back on the edge of the open parkland provided an excellent opportunity to see a group of Redwings.
The decision was then made to end our day at Black Wood in Childwall. This area of mature woodland has not been spoilt by over-management thus providing excellent habitats for invertebrates and hence food supplies for a range of birds. Sadly, our excursion there did not reveal many birds, but we were able to spot Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper. One notable absence for the day was Long-tailed tit: perhaps these are all lurking around feeders in people’s gardens. Overall, we had a fantastic day and the total for the day seems to 59 species.
Imagery courtesy of Laura Bimson