Sunday, June 08, 2008

Greenock Cut and Leighton Moss RSPB

Saturday was forecast to start well but with cloud and potentially showers moving in so we set off early. Frankly getting out of the hotel was a relief. This time we had booked two nights in the Willowbank Hotel in Largs. The room was the smallest yet, as was the bed, itself another soggy pudding. The fittings were all original 1970's and the shower turned instantly from hot to cold as soon as another guest used any water. It was the second most expensive hotel on our travels and we quickly decided to check out there and then and to book a Premier Inn near Martin Mere in Lancashire, which would help break up the journey home and we could drive whilst it rained. I must also mention breakfast, available to non-guests as £12.50 a head, consisting of tea or coffee, toast (white only) and preserves (marmalade). Plus you choice of a cooked breakfast. I asked for poached eggs on toast and got an egg on a single slice of toast. The juice is brought to you on request, no doubt to save more money. Really tight and contrasted wholly by our experience on the Sunday morning with the £5.25 all you can eat (and drink) continental breakfast at Preston East.

We met up with family again on Friday evening and had a really good time and got (not very) quietly sozzled :)

On with the walk. The Greenock Cut was completed as a formal walk in 2007, and consists of a loop from the visitor centre, taken anti-clockwise to ensure the best views of the Firth of Clyde, of about 7.5miles. As we started the walk a couple of Curlews were flying and calling across the reservoir by the centre, their calls filling the air, a much broader repertoire than the usual estuary calls we have encountered before, it ensured the walk started with a smile.

After the first gentle climb and about 1.5 miles into the walk you turn out onto the cut and the first views across the Firth. You have to go quite a long way along the cut before the views aren't dominated by housing and industrial facilities, but it is worth the wait:

and here:

We spotted a dove on the wires below. We walked past it and decided to have another quick check. Turns out it was a male Cuckoo:

It's worth clicking on for a closer look. He was diving down from the wires to feed, you can see him here having returned from a successful foray:

He also was watching us watching him but was quite undisturbed, as we'd sat on a bank to observe:

We finished the walk in three hours and decided to head south, with the hope of getting to RSPB Leighton Moss ( in time for a cup of tea before the visitor centre closed. We needn't of hurried as the centre has a later opening than most so we had time for tea and more cake before going on to the reserve.

Leighton Moss is another very pleasant spot with a real good feel about it. We started by checking out the public hide, nothing much to see but I enjoyed watching this Black-headed Gull perched in front of the hide:

Just short of where the path to the Griesdale and Tim Jackson hides splits, we watched a male Bearded Tit/Bearded Reedling gathering food and flying to the nest and then off again to hunt. The flights were very brief, and made for excellent viewing with the naked eye but impossible to photograph! Still an excellent bird to watch.

From the Griesdale hide we watched a Little Egret padding about in a tree, as they do, a Grey Heron hunting on the water close by:

And tracked a female Marsh Harrier as she flew closer and closer to the hide, being mobbed by lapwings as she flew. Eventually she was around five yards from the front of the hide, hovering and calling (very loudly), far too close for the lens I had mounted and too brief for a change but an excellent experience. I snapped her a little further away, in the fading light of the early evening:

The reserve staff told us Spoonbill had been seen on the salt marshes so we headed on there but no luck. Instead we watched a large group of summering Black-tailed Godwits, joined by these birds, which I presume are juvenile Dunlin, though I cannot be sure?

Their feeding was very 'knitting needle'. Could they have been juvenile Black-tailed Godwits?

Sunday morning was bright and very warm, so another prompt start put us at the door of Martin Mere WWT at opening time. We went straight to the 'wild' section of the reserve, but it was very quiet. There were a few juvenile Shelduck, including this lone bird:

And waddling around this Mandarin drake, probably a captive bird out of its pen but it has stunning plumage:

It was time to head home. We resolved that our next trip to Scotland, whenever we are able to take it, will take us North of Edinburgh and include the Cairngorms and if possible some time in Shetland. Best get planning then.

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Blogger Jane said...

What an interesting post - I enjoyed it very much and your bird photos are beautiful. What a pity you stayed in such an awful place in Largs! I hope it won't put you off returning there one day - there are better places to stay! I loved the photos of the Greenock Cut. I only took one half-decent one there (now on my blog) but I hope to get some better ones in future. I saw my first yellow wagtail there, by the way.
Best wishes to you from Wales, Jane Thomas

10:49 am  
Blogger Michael said...


Many thanks for the feedback :)



7:13 pm  

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