Saturday, 27 February 2010

Formby & Marshside

A 100+ mile round trip to a couple of my favourite haunts proved more than a little bit disappointing today.
If you were to believe the weatherman and unusually I did today, then this part of North West England was just about the only part of the country to be promised long periods of sunshine!

My first stop of the day was Formby Point, where the first couple of hours were spent on a fruitless search for the last remaining Red Squirrels, which although said to be making a slow recovery from the devastating Squirrel Pox Virus, numbers could be as low as 40.

It really is a heartbreaking situation in one of the last remaining 'strongholds' for the species in England and the speed that the disease has spread is frightening.
Here is a photograph I took of a Red at Formby in late March 2008...

On that day, there were dozens of Squirrels seemingly in good health, all around the pine woodland.
I returned in February 2009 and on that cold winter's day the situation looked dire, with notices posted around the site and wardens telling me that no Squirrels had been seen for weeks.

I suppose you have to put your faith in the experts when they say things are improving at Formby, but after visiting the site on a number of occasions in happier times and witnessing the situation twice as it is in the last 12 months, I can't help feeling no small amount of despair at the plight of the Formby Red Squirrel.

My quota of the promised sunshine was used up in the heavily shadowed pine woods at Formby and by the time I had walked the woodland path to the sand dunes and the sea beyond any evidence of clear blue Sky's were long gone!
Coastal bird life was very quiet...Small groups of Oystercatcher and Knot passing overhead looked unremarkable against the dark grey Sky's.
On the shore I was expecting to see Sanderling and Dunlin at least, but had to settle for the odd Herring and Black Headed Gull.
I wasn't overly optimistic when I got in the car and headed up the coast to Marshside on the southern tip of the Ribble Estuary.

Marshside is perhaps my favourite RSPB Reserve and has been good to me over the years, but sometimes you just get that feeling that it's not going to be your day...
Large numbers of wildfowl were as usual present at Marshside, but rather frustratingly from a photography point of view the birds seemed to favour the far reaches of the Mere!
Teal and Wigeon were in abundance, but these birds which would be regarded as 'prize spots' at my local patch are as common as Mallards at this time of the Year in this part of the world.

As I've mentioned before, my 'buzz' is to get the photograph and although it was a pleasure to see a distant Merlin 'raise' large flocks of wildfowl far across the Mere, I still left Marshside on a bit of a downer.
When in this part of the country, I usually always visit Martin Mere as well as Marshside...These two great sites are only a few miles apart, but as the grey sky's became heavier, the first drops of rain fell and already very cold from a biting sea breeze, I decided to call it a day.

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