With sun forecast for the whole day, myself and my husband headed over last weekend. The reserve is home to around 100 different species of captive wildfowl from around the world in large wetland enclosures designed to recreate their natural environments, we spent a couple of hours wandering through these enclosures - it was a pleasure to see beautiful birds that we would be unlikely to see otherwise. The real highlight for me however was visiting the various hides (from where all of the photos of birds in this post were taken), and seeing the thousands of wild birds, many of them migrants that call Martin Mere home over the winter.
Amongst the more usual winter visitors to the mere such as the Whooper Swans (visitors from Iceland similar in size to Mute Swans, numbering 1720 at their highest count so far this year), the Greylag and Pinkfoot geese, and ducks such as Pintails, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard, were two unusual individuals - a Ross's goose, and also a Bar-headed goose. These latter two are probably escapes from other waterfowl collections or feral birds, as opposed to being genuine 'vagrants'.
This individual is currently mixing with the wild Greylag Geese at Martin Mere - I was lucky to get a good view of him/her just in front of the Swan Link hide - a beautiful and unusual bird to see here.
Of the ducks, a lovely bird we saw dozens of on this visit were Wigeon - medium sized ducks that winter in the UK, quite noisy birds with a loud whistling call. There were also plenty of beautiful Pintails with their softer call, similar in sound to a Teal in my opinion, but lower in pitch. Shelducks were ubiquitous, enjoying the spoils in all of the captive birds' enclosures, as well as amongst the other wild birds seen from the hides.
|Ruff (according to the RSPB website only about 820 individuals winter in the UK)|
|Rudely interrupted - a stoat makes a Barn Owl take flight|
Also out hunting, along a grass pathway visible from the hide was a mustelid, the black tip of its tail identifying it as a stoat. We saw the stoat running back towards us carrying something in its mouth but it was too far away to make out exactly what. At one point the Barn Owl spent several minutes sat in the middle of this clearing, the same area where the stoat was patrolling and it ran towards the Barn Owl making the bird take to the air. Stoats can predate the eggs and young of Barn Owls though I'm not sure whether they would attempt to take on an adult - whether the stoat was considering this, or was perhaps uncomfortable with the owl's presence I cannot say. (I've included a photo of this (with apologies for the poor quality), where you can just about see the stoat's head visible, and the owl looking directly down at it.)
|Hunting Barn Owl|
The visit ended on a rather more sombre note. We went in to the on-site optics store as we were gradually making our way towards the exit, and as well as admiring the various binoculars and scopes for sale we also admired the view over the wetlands with the setting sun. My initial pleasure at seeing a rabbit coming close to the large windows of the shop was soon tempered by the salesman stating that it looked "a bit myxy". And indeed as soon as a lens was trained on the rabbit, we could see that s/he looked very unwell indeed.
|Rabbit with suspected Myxomatosis|