Sat 14th Feb 2015. A trip up to the North-West with Paul F.
Our intended target was a Laughing Gull at New Brighton. The journey was uneventful but a bit slower than we would have liked with 50 mph speed limits on long stretches of most motorways and also some imaginary "debris in road".
We arrived at New Brighton about ten to ten and parked near to the Marine Lake. Some birders were returning to their car looking quite happy so we assumed they had seen our quarry. They pointed to a pontoon where the Laughing Gull likes to hang out, wished us luck and they headed off. The pontoon was a bit of a distance from where we had parked but on inspection the Laughing Gull was in fact the only Gull on the pontoon. A good start to our day! We walked around the Marine Lake towards the pontoon but the Laughing Gull flew just as we arrived but luckily for us it landed on the water in front of us to feed on bread. We took a few pics but the Laughing Gull took off and flew out of sight. We hung around for a bit, then decided to have a wander as we had heard their were two Snow Bunting nearby. During our wander we spoke to several other birders and were able to establish the location for the Snow Buntings. They were not too far away but not walking distance. We decided to head back to the car hoping the Laughing Gull had returned to it's favoured spot. On route we saw a very distant Purple Sandpiper on some rocks. Back at the Marine Lake the Laughing Gull was at the opposite end on some railings so we headed over for another look and one or two more pics. After a few minutes the Laughing Gull took off again and was lost to sight. This was our cue to leave in search of Snow Bunting. A short drive to the east end of Wallasey Golf Course. Parking up near the Coastguards Lookout we headed straight towards the beach. At the beach we lifted our bins and there were the Snow Buntings. Some birders from Wiltshire were close behind us and we were able to get them straight on the Snow Buntings. We moved a bit nearer for a closer view and maybe some photo's but the birds were flushed by some dog walkers and then flushed again quite a distance along the beach. Back to the car and Burton Mere was the next destination to go in the trusty twat-nav our target bird here was a roosting Long-eared Owl. Twat-nav found RSPB Burton Mere no problem and we headed through the visitors centre and along the paths and boardwalk towards the Inner Marsh Farm hide. Seventy or eighty yards before the hide a group of people were assembled including a very helpful RSPB volunteer. He pointed us roughly in the direction of the Long-eared Owl. I raised my bins towards the bush and there was the Long-eared Owl quite deep in but decent views all the same. I also lent my bins to some non birding people who were really pleased to see the owl.
Things were going really well with three direct hits on our target birds so we were quite confident our next target a Waxwing at Orrell Water Park near Wigan (I think?) would be just as co-operative. Twat-nav did it's stuff again and we parked in the Water Park car park and walked the short distance to Moss Road. One or two birders were hanging around and the Waxwing although not showing had been seen recently. Over an hour went by and no sign of the waxwing but some chat with some local birders was enjoyable. The Waxwing did then make an appearance, perched high up in the tall trees that surround the Water Park before flying down to feed on apples that had been impaled on the branches of a tree in a front garden. It offered good views as it fed on the apples and again I lent my bins to some non birding locals that were delighted to see such a "pretty bird". Time now was after three o'clock and a discussion with Paul was whether to stay longer watching the Waxwing or head for Pennington Flash where Willow Tit are "nailed on!". It was a shame to leave the Waxwing but we were quite confident of seeing Willow Tit as we had connected with all our target birds so far. At Pennington Flash we headed straight for the Bunting Hide. A few Reed Buntings and Tits but none of the Willow variety. As the light failed, a Water Rail showed well but unfortunately Willow Tit did not. Time to head south now and we were relieved that the earlier traffic problems on the motorways had now cleared.
O.k. so you made it this far down the post you deserve some cr*ppy pics! No wonder Twitter is so popular these days @sh4rpy.
Pics are; Laughing Gull at New Brighton, Waxwing near Orrell Water Park, Stock Dove and Water Rail Pennington Flash.