As the big garden bird watch is nearly upon us I thought I'd get out on the reserve and see how many garden birds I could spot in half an hour - it should have been an hour but it was so cold out there I couldn't wait to get back to the truck!

The first to show it's face was a cheeky robin sitting boldly on a fence post, not at all bothered as I pulled up by the cattle pen on Marshside Road......

  

Robin by Barry Smith

In the same area I identified blackbird, song thrush, mistle thrush, wren, goldfinch and blue tit - along with three wood pigeon sheltering from the icy wind. A quick walk along the path brought a large flock of house sparrow chattering away in the brambles and a few linnet took flight out into Rimmer's marsh as I approached. Large flocks of starling were foraging on Sutton's marsh along with a pied wagtail and a couple of carrion crows.

Out on the reserve we’ve had sky lark, twite, linnet and rock pipit.

On the way back to the truck I spotted a snipe wheeling in and managed to get a decent picture before it quickly flew away – even though I knew exactly where it was it still managed to camouflage itself against a female wigeon.

Snipe by Barry Smith

Although Rainford’s pool was frozen over earlier today it has been very busy all week – gadwall, pintail, pochard and tufted duck along with large numbers of wigeon and teal. It is very important for all of our birds to keep their energy levels up during these cold periods – we’ve had flocks of curlew feeding out on the marshes where they have been joined by golden plover, lapwing and black tailed godwit.

It amazes me how many raptors you can see in a single day at Marshside – kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, merlin, peregrine and a hen harrier have all been reported this week.

We were also visited by a stoat while working on the fence line at Sutton’s marsh east, busily hunting in the undergrowth until it got too close and beat a hasty retreat.

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