I decided to visit the Dee Marshes at Parkgate and Burton on my way to visit Dad on Tuesday. As I arrived at Parkgate, I was frankly horrified to see around 40 middle-to-late-aged birders standing in the car park, gazing out across the marshes through a lot of seriously expensive optics.
Being an unsociable introvert (and somewhat embarrassed by my dinky sports binoculars), I gave them a wide berth and went to stand 50 or so yards away. They were looking at a very distant juvenile marsh harrier, which eventually flapped away across the reeds and rushes, tormented by the occasional brave crow. I would show you a photo, but it's just a smudgy dot.
Spoonbills and great white egrets have been spotted on the marshes recently. Either of those would be new species to me, but I saw neither hide nor feather of them. Actually, come to think of it, I have seen spoonbills before, in Australia, but I'm sure they must have been a different species from the ones we get up here.
Even though the harrier had gone, the birders stayed around, so I decided to sneak off into the bushes and try to get a photo of the robin I could hear singing its little heart out. Mum would have been proud of me: harriers, spoonbills and great white egrets just yards away, and here was I trying to spot a robin. I must have got within 20 feet of him, but I couldn't see him. What I was delighted to find in the undergrowth, though, was a pile of broken snail shells next to a stone: a song thrush's anvil:
Eventually, I decided to pop down to Burton Marshes to see what was happening there. Not an awful lot, it turned out. To be fair, it was getting a bit late. I heard some sort of warbler in the reeds, and caught a fleeting glimpse of it, and there were lapwings and dunlin and a few other bits and bobs. Having failed miserably with the robin, I also had a go at tracking down a great tit in one of the hawthorns at the side of the road, again without success. Then I decided just to sit on one of the benches looking out across the marshes and take in the view. Which meant that I had my back turned when a buzzard flew very nearby across the field behind me and landed in a tree.
I will get the hang of this bird-watching malarkey eventually.