Category Archives: Parkgate

More a case of what I didn't see

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:

Snail shells broken by song thrush

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.

Buzzard

Buzzard

I will get the hang of this bird-watching malarkey eventually.

More photos »

Mist opportunities

Two brief visits to the Dee Marshes on consecutive Tuesday afternoons. Last week, it was very misty; this week, less so. Several egrets, and lots of geese and swans—the geese and swans being too far away to identify. Very atmospheric, though, misty marshes.

Little egret
Little egret.

Misty marshes
Moody misty marshes.