THE day started off wet and cold although the forecast had suggested the rain would stop around 10am, but this did not happen.

We were travelling to Southport to visit the RSPB reserve at Marshside and from the car park, which was still heavily pot-holed, we headed straight for the shelter of the Sandgrounders’ hide.

Our first sighting was a grey wagtail searching for food along the muddy banks and next we saw the rear end of a pintail upended foraging for food in the shallow waters. Cormorants were observed in their very distinctive pose of wings spread trying to dry themselves in the pouring rain.

At first only a single black-tailed godwit was observed close to the hide but then a flock of some 20 birds was seen a little farther away.

A small flock of avocets were searching for food using their very typical side to side scything movement.

Small numbers of redshank, ruff, oystercatcher, dunlin and curlew were also present.

Together with large numbers of lapwing, several hundred golden plover formed small cloud-like shapes.

The usual species of duck such as mallard, tufted, shelduck, gadwall, shoveler and wigeon were also seen.

On route to Martin Mere, the wetland and wildfowl reserve, near Burscough, Red legged partridge and a kestrel were spotted.

At the visitor centre we had our packed lunch in comfort as we overlooked Swan Lake and watched the captive birds.

Many of the wildfowl were displaying having been fooled by the first signs of spring.

On entering the reserve we were greeted by a cacophony of sound from the 1,000-plus whooper swans.

From time to time flocks of lapwing and geese flew into the air, disturbed by a solitary marsh harrier that quartered the surrounding farmland and we were lucky to see the bird land.

Longtailed Tits were also seen darting among the trees and a tawny owl was studied for some time perched in an ivy-covered tree very close to the path en route to the kingfisher hide – the presence of a small group of observers gave its presence away.

A flock of pink-footed geese was observed in the distance from the kingfisher hide together with a few stock dove but no signs of the reported kingfisher.

On such a cold day we really appreciated the centrally heated Raines Observatory where we spent a little time, but the late afternoon sun made viewing rather difficult.