SO, I'd been itching to get to the river to see what's been going on with these wader drop-ins and hang-arounds, especially the seemingly stop-over Common Sandpipers. Took the opportunity, therefore, to grab an hour before dinner whilst the missus went shopping and headed straight to Halfway House. The place was hooching - loads of stuff out on the mud... pale stuff (gulls)... DARK matter (waders!). Excellent. Set up my usual fezzie chair, clipped my scope on the pod, flipped out its legs (1 always go 1 out front at 45 degrees and the other 2 horizontal and resting on the arms of the fezzie chair), hunker down and begin to scan. Lapwing everywhere! Almost immediately among said peewits a small wader washing. Quick shake of the wings and it's done... Common Sandpiper. That's ONE! The post-breeding Lapwing numbers look big today... bigger still than a few days ago, so I settle down to count... working through the strung-out flocklets when I hit a Curlew... then another... then a group. OK. Concentrate on the Lapwing then go back for the Curlew! Takes a while but I count 825 Lapwing, that's almost 400 up on Tuesday! Now for the Curlew, 31 on the bank, 58 in a group among the Lapwing to the east and another 30 scattered about on the mud. I make that 119! That's a good count.
Oi, Oi...Gulls are up... Why? WHY?? Can't see owt, but they're well spooked. Hang on... raptor... low in front of the Fiddler's Ferry hide on the other side of the river. Harrier! Bins up... cream crown... female Marsh Harrier... bit dark though. Get the scope on it. Very clean. No moult. Tail a little tatty, else pristine. Neat creamy-goldy fringe along the upper coverts clinches it. NOT a female after all - it's a JUVENILE. Smashing bird. Full crop too, so I don't know what the gulls are worried about. Off high right now, past the cooling towers towards Gatewarth and Woolston and I lose it. Well, hooda thunk it. Mind has been so full of wader passage I never really thought about what other stuff could drop in... sept for Little Gull and terns. Still haven't had a Little Gull from here and just Common Tern... so far. NEXT year, I have a feeling I may be spending even more time at this little bend in the river!
Marsh Harrier. No more waders. Just the single Common Sandpiper to keep me guessing and nothing on Norton Marsh Pool or Pumphouse Pool. Do I care? Nope. Coz thanks to the gulls, as is so often the case, I bagged a very nice patch bird. Useful things... gulls.