Monday, March 12, 2007

Martin Mere - Swans at dawn

We needed a break and so booked off the first day's holiday of the year and decided to make a long weekend of it by heading up to Lancashire for some walking and birding. Stupidly we also booked tickets for the dawn Swan Flight via the WWT (http://www.wwt.org.uk/), which meant a 5am alarm and a prompt arrival at Martin Mere for a 6am start. The sat nav took us down a farm track which was fenced off halfway along - hilarious at 0540 :)

Anyway we were there with 5 minutes to spare although we'd forgotten the tickets - luckily the warden was humane and was checking names instead! As we waited for the final couple to arrive my wife noticed a large flock of Geese taking off in the half-light of dawn, which is part of what we'd come to see. I was now getting really annoyed!!

Finally we entered the reserve and went on to the main hide. Hey presto almost nothing to see. The geese had indeed flown and there were few Whooper Swans about. We decided to go walkabout and headed up to the United Utilities hide, from which we could see the majority of the reserve's Whoopers and saw a Marsh Harrier settling. After about 20 minutes of watching the swans, and the lapwings and feeling guilty we headed back to join the group at the main hide. By this time the swans were headed across, in anticipation of their 0830 feed. Here's a small group headed in:















As the number of Whooper Swans increased they started to either fight or display in couples or groups and to gather in front of the hide:











As well as the swans there were by now a few geese, some mallards and quite a few Pintail Ducks, including this pair:














The warden decided to bring forward the feeding as the humans were getting cold and it was only 0730 - an hour ahead of the main feeding schedule. As the swans fed, gradually the other birds plucked up the courage to mingle in, including the ducks, Shelduck and the geese. As I was snapping away one particular goose, now christened 'Evil Goose' took a particular dislike to me and stared and hissed for a good ten minutes regardless of what else was going on around, this is Evil Goose (Pink-footed Goose):















Once the feeding was completed it was time to head back into the reserve building for a cooked breakfast and tea. The morning proved well worth the £12 entrance fee and I'd recommend it to anyone who can face a 5am alarm!

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