Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 5, 2009

Return of the wild geese

When does Autumn start? One way of telling is when the wild geese begin to return in large flocks. It’s a wonderful sight to see the sky above the RSPB reserve at Saltholme marshes covered by so many birds.

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They are, of course, Greylag Geese. The spotting scope reveals their unmistakeable orange bills.

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Greylag goose (Anser anser)

You can see a Curlew at the bottom of the above picture. Here’s some more

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Curlew (Numenius arquata)

This next photograph links the Curlew with a Saltholme speciality, the Little Egret.

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They are becoming increasing common at Salthome, and the reserve is one of the largest clusters of these birds in the North of England.

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Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Their dazzling whiteness and green feet are most striking.

On the edge of the waters were many waders, including Godwits (Bar-tailed and Black-tailed!).

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This cluster of Bar-tailed Godwits were beautiful to watch. Seen through the scope at great distance, some of the detail of their plumage can be resolved.

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Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

You can see the faintly upcurved bill, ending with a black tip. In contrast, the Black-tailed Godwit in summer plumage is far more colourful, and has longer legs.

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Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

The coppery red summer plumage contrasts with the more grey winter plumage it will shortly have. Let’s hope I get to photograph one later in the year, so you can see the difference!

Both Godwits kept their tails tucked away, so the difference between the two couldn’t be seen.

There were some fine views of a Greenshank.

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Greenshank (Tringa Nebularia)

Needless to say it gets its name from the colour of its legs.

Ruffs were also seen, no longer in their spring plumage.

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Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

And along the water’s edge, a Curlew Sandpiper.

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Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

Also in attendance, a Little Stint

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Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

At long range, a Ringed Plover could be seen.

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Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

Lapwings are generally seen at Saltholme, increasingly in flocks.

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Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

On the pools before the hide were Little Grebes

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Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

And Tufted Ducks

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Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

and Mute Swans

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Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

In the sky, a Peregrine Falcon made an unsuccessful attack, swooping through a desert of Lapwing.

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Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)

Needless to say, the attack was very quick!

Another hunter stalking was a Grey Heron.

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Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

In the banks by the visitors centre were plenty of Sand Martins.

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Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

They won’t be staying in Britain for much longer before making their way off to warmer climes. Neither will these; Redstarts in autumn finery.

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Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

One bird that will be staying are Goldfinches. You can see various stages of moulting in this picture.

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Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)


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