Monday, March 12, 2007

Formby Point

We had an exquisite (but very late) lunch at a garden centre cafe north of Southport before determining our last destination for the Saturday. We settled on Formby as the big atlas showed some bird symbols and we were out of ideas and very tired! As we got close to Formby we saw signs for a National Trust attraction at 'Formby Point' (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-formby/) which we decided to follow. It turns out that Formby Point is one of the last strongholds of the Red Squirrel in the UK. By now the clouds were gathering (as predicted) so the light was falling away and the wind picking up. We walked to the headland, being sandblasted the whole way but frankly the beaches in Norfolk and Cornwall are much more attractive!

We decided to head back into the wood and search out some Red Squirrels. We saw a group of adults and youngsters clustered around some logs. The kids, in their enthusiasm, were throwing nuts at the squirrels, which meant the squirrels were having to take evasive action to avoid being pelted, which was an interesting outcome of the NT selling 'squirrel nuts' (as were the number of magpies and crows) :)

I watched one Red Squirrel take cover up a tree which we were watching. I lost it in the canopy but tried to pick it up for a good ten minutes or so. Meanwhile my wife had seen it run down the other side, sit at the base of the trunk and then potter off at a gentle pace much to her amusement!

We headed deeper into the wood to try and locate some less bruised squirrels. We stopped in a spot where we could hear a lot of very thin high-pitched calls, which turned out to be a flock of Goldcrests. Having only seen individuals before this 'flocking' behaviour was a surprise. They behaved remarkably similarly to Long-tailed Tits in fact. This Goldcrest is shown in profile:




















whereas this one is showing very clearly the headstripe:
















Both pictures were taken in heavy gloom and in woodland so the focus isn't sharp (sorry!). There are clearly quite a lot of Red Squirrels at Formby point and finally I managed a decent snap of one, eating some of the recently thrown food:

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