Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Dazzling Array of Talent.

Reed Bunting posing, originally uploaded by Steve_C.
As the FC United game against Kendal was called off yesterday due to a waterlogged pitch at Gigg Lane we all headed off to Pennington Flash for a bit of a walk and some birding.

It's a great place for The Kids as there a number of accessible hides, a small play area and a chip van, so it's possible to get them interested without seeming to hit them over the head.

The easiest and most 'spectacular' hide is The Bunting Hide, in front of which food is left out in Winter. This leads to a parade of some of the most beautiful birds we have out there - the Bullfinches in particular looked as if they just been into make-up to have their colours touched-up. There were also the usual sights - bright robins, greenfinches (there was a dead one on the floor of the hide which provoked some interest from My Young Ghouls), chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and even a pair of mute swans which had made themselves at home in what can only be described as the small puddle underneath the tables.

It was all wonderful to see, but there was a feeling that I was shooting fish in a barrel. Not to the extent I've felt it at some nature reserves, but it still felt as if seeing birds there was not as satisfying as when I see them 'on the hoof' and in an urban setting. I think that a large part of the joy I get from seeing birds in Manchester or Salford is the knowledge of how run-down, dowdy and poisonous the areas had been in the past.

Six months ago I wrote, with breathless excitement, about seeing a Kingfisher shoot under Victoria Bridge adjacent to the site of the old Victoria Bus Station. On Friday, my perceptions heightened through the use of my Kingfishervision super-power, I leant over from the Salford-side, old tax office to my rear and looked down into the scrubbage which has grown on the bank down there, inaccessible to all. From towards Albert Bridge something approached, and my first thoughts were that it was a blue tit, as I've seen them hopping to and fro on the weeds. Instead, it was another Kingfisher, which landed just below me and proceeded to stare into the water.

It was raining quite heavily and a cold wind, aided by the intensity of my staring, forced tears from my eyes which made it difficult to watch, but I persevered for a few minutes until it upped and flew under the bridge. I crossed and looked down again until I spotted it. This time I was able to use my small, cheap binoculars to get a look straight at it. Unromantically, it squirted out a shot of white feces, then dropped briefly into the water. After it emerged empty-beaked, it headed off again, up towards Chethams.

I headed off to work.

Thanks to Steve C on flickr for this lovely shot of a male Reed Bunting, which was part of the dazzling array of talent on view at Pennington Flash.

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