Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Saturday 8th January 2011 - Lancashire

We scoured Westport again for two hours this morning, with a GBBG as our only reward. It was our original intention to tour Staffordshire, but when the 1w RED-BREASTED GOOSE came on again in Lancashire, we had a tricky decision to make. Now I was always a little bit suspect about this goose, due to the fact it was with Pink-feet, but there was just something about the bird, plus a few other little goodies in the area that made us head north. PJ was busy chasing WAXWINGS in Longton and so it was just CJW, GAS and myself today. We headed for Staynall where the goose had been reported earlier. We found the lane, but it was one of the tighest lanes I've been down for a while, and very few passing spaces. We made one car reverse quite a way back, but fortunately they were birders (cheers chaps!) and they told us there was no sign of it, and no one had seen it either. Viewing here was extremely difficult - a combination of undulating fields in a valley and high hedges, so we drove down to the bottom road to try and get better views. Three birders were walking back to their cars from out of a field, so I stopped and waited to chat to them. One was Bill Brydges, so we had a little chat. The Pink-feet were in the field, but they couldn't see them properly as they would have been flushed if they had gone any further. It was turning into a frustrating visit. Soon all the geese were up in the air (a duck shoot was going on nearby) and we saw where they landed and headed there. Viewing was from the narrow lane again and eventually we found a gap in the hedge and we could view most of the flock - but there was no sign of the R B Goose. We tried again from another angle where most of the birders in the area had gathered but we were looking into the sunlight from here. Most birders gave up and we headed for Fluke Hall to the north, a place where I remember seeing geese on my last visit up here in 2002. At last we found a field full of Pink-feet all perfectly visible, but, no sign of the RBGoose. We did see some more in a field further back with 11 Whopper Swans, but again not all were visible here. By now we had spent nearly three hours in the area, and so we decided to call it a day.

Above - Pink-footed Geese at Fluke Hall

We headed down to Fairhaven Lake where we soon spotted a very showy 1w Red-necked Grebe. It was relatively easy to spot - you just had to look where the long lens boys were gathered. But for a Red-necked Grebe, it was showing ridiculously close in at times. There was also a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers here as well. And that was all wwe had time for. We originally planned to head down to Inner Marsh for the GREEN-WINGED TEAL but we had run out of time.

Above - Red-necked Grebe and Red-breasted Mergansers at Fairhaven Lake

Postscript to RED-BREASTED GOOSE -The following two afternoons, the RBGoose was to be found in the Fluke Hall/Pilling Lane area, exactly where we had been. When I asked on the forum for local opinion on the bird, this is the reply I got -
Local opinion is probably what local opinion anywhere would be these days:

- it's definitely wild
- there's no way of knowing
- it's definitely an escape

No there hasn't been one knocking around this summer. It isn't immediately evident how a first winter would end up in with Pinkfeet. Red-breasted Goose did breed in the 'wild' in the UK this year but apparently on dates it isn't one of that brood. It is the kind of record where 'unknown origin' means just that but if I had to come off the fence I would say it is an escape which would have to be from a successful captive pairing.

Stephen Dunstan