The weather forecast seemed like we might be in for some rain last Sunday, but, we decided on a trip anyway. We met in Norden and with Chris B at the wheel we headed of to Sizergh Castle. Nearly a full A team arrived at a wet venue to see Hawfinch, a species we do not often miss here. We missed last time and after 20 minutes of standing under the National Trust cafe verandah in wet and cold conditions it looked like another dip. We decided to “tough it out” and were rewarded when a single Hawfinch was seen feeding along with Bullfinch and Chaffinch, quite a sight in breeding plumage. It was time to employ operation, “Find a Hide”, as we headed for the Allen and Morecambe Pool hides at Leighton Moss. Greenshank and Ruff were again our target species as we had missed out a few weeks ago and as the rain lashed against the hides it did not look good. Lots of Black Tailed Godwit, Avocet and Black Headed Gulls were present, but alas no target waders. A stop to listen for Cetti`s Warbler was also fruitless, can we blame the birds for not singing in these conditions really? We stopped at the “Blue Gate” at Leighton Moss (well it used to be blue) and heard and saw Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Real harbingers of spring these two species, Chris pointed out a couple of fungus, one called King Alfred`s Cakes quite a curious shape and all black! We carried on to the Lower hide as the rain just fell from the sky, I re-told my story about the Golden Oriole that I saw one December along this path, don’t know if I have told them that story before as they appeared to not be listening! On arrival we tried to dry out a little bit with distant views of Sand Martin,House Martin, Swallow and quite a few ducks then, someone saw 2 Otters. We were then treated to 10 minutes watching these beautiful mammals swimming, diving and generally enjoying themselves in the monsoon conditions. It’s a long time since I have seen them, we all enjoyed every minute of it. We decided to head for home the scenic route and check the area out as the rain did slightly subside. We came over the “Cross of Greet” road, always looks good for various hill dwelling birds, but unfortunately it is well gamekeepered and we know what that means. As we used the car as a hide we searched for returning migrants and were lucky to see a male and female Ring Ouzel sat close to the road, they then landed on a dry stone wall and after chasing each other up a boulder strewn valley were lost to view, excellent! We called in at Stocks Reservoir and a male Mandarin duck was found but not much else, we will be back soon when the Cuckoo comes back in few weeks though. We all got home before 3-45pm and in time to watch the Manchester derby football match. Even the excesses of the weather did not prevent us from all enjoying the day out.

Dave O.

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