Pablo: The Scouse King & an unexpected Journey

Meet Pablo, he’s one flaming attractive Red-crested Pochard who you can find on the secluded murky waters of the pleasant Walton Hall Park, on the out skirts of one of the most famous cities on earth, Liverpool . For the past 5 years now Pablo’s grown up on the parks main lake with his new friends the Mallard’s, Coot’s & Canada Geese and has delighted all those who venture round the park, weather there interested in the gems of the natural world or not, but after setting your eyes upon this master class of a bird who couldn’t you be ?

Pablo has been a bird who I’ve wanted to set my eyes upon ever since I first heard of him in the autumn of 2015; only, at the time of my acknowledgment of him I struggled to find the time and wasn’t as confident in using public transport as I am now. But on 29th of December whilst scrolling through Facebook after a gruelling 5 hours revising for my January Mocks,  I came across a selection of images of Pablo by Mr Austin Morley. It was after seeing the stunning series of images and reading Austin’s blog about his trip to Walton Hall Park to visit Pablo, I flicked off Facebook and messaged fellow young Wirral birder Luke Anderson to see if he’d like to join me in a trip over to Liverpool to finally meet the most attractive bird in Liverpool.

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The Black-headed Gull (Chropicocephalus ridibundus), one bird that you can never get too tired of seeing.

As the suns life giving rays rose above the horizon, flooding the morning sky alighting yet another day on planet earth, myself and Luke hopped off the train at Rice Lane and made our way over to Walton Hall Park where we not only hoped to see Pablo, but get Luke a few more lifers due to his new arrival into the world of birding. After a short ten minute walk we had arrived at the entrance to the park to be greeted by breath-taking, beautiful, yet eerily sight of the sun slicing through the dense woods and the morning mist creating a very much atmospheric feeling this very edgy looking park.

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One of the many 1st drake Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) walking across the frozen Lake

On arrival to the parks lake Luke and I noticed a small flock of Mallard and surly enough guess who was amongst them trying his best to evade us, Pablo. As I’d been informed Mr Pablo was now fully adjusted to life at the park and would only approach if food was to be given, so after raiding the cupboards that morning before the sun had risen, I’d collected a reasonable about of seeded brown bread with me to entice the bird closer into photographical range. My plan of action was to just simply chuck some bread onto the water on the side of the lake and wait for Pablo to approach, but there was a problem… it was still early morning and the sun had to still melt the ice from last nights freeze along with that we were in the shade, so lighting wasn’t in our favour for photographing Pablo and the parks other inhabitancy.

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Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Pablo, the Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)

So, after a carful half an hour leaving a trail of bread crumbs along the banks of the parks lake, with the primary objective being that Pablo along with the rest of parks waterfowl would follow it which would eventually lead them into the light were Luke & I would be able to photograph them. At first the plan was going according to plan: Pablo, along with all the Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Coots & Moorhens on the lake followed us round and we were soon closing in on the sun lit area. But as it always is something had to come and spoil are fun and today it was the turn of every parks most unwanted visitor, the Canada Goose. A flock of 30 or so birds had heard all the commotion from the parks smaller lake due to the racket the Black-headed Gulls were making over head, the Canada’s then thrusted themselves into the air and over onto the lake were they dropped onto its surface like bombs out of a volcano, here there and everywhere the sounds of these giant avian foreigners impacting on the lakes surface defended us and as a result Pablo, along with everything else shot down back into the shadows.

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It wasn’t just Red-crested Pochard which Walton Hall Park on its waters, this sulky Common Pochard (Aythya farina) was also about and was Luke’s 2nd lifer of the day…Pablo was his first

But, hope was not lost as there was still some bread left in the bag. After throwing the remaining bread into the lake it was then much of our delight that everything which was once in the shadows not just noticed the bread, but bolted over into the light were the pair of us lined ourselves up with cameras at the go ready to fire away. When his royal highness finally came onto the scene both sets of cameras erupted into action, firing away like sub machine guns and sure enough the side on shot with the iron oxidised crest flared up, with the blazing sun shining down upon it, the frame in which I envisioned Pablo to be in was captured and I was chuffed to bits as well was Luke.

After a rather exhilarating ten minutes of full of photography, we’d collected the shots we were after and Pablo had his fill for the day, so it was a gentle stroll round the rest of the park picking up on what other bird life was too be found: Redwing, Common Pochard, Common Gull, Cormorant, Long-tailed Tit and Kestrel were a few of the birds we encountered before we had one last look at Pablo before we called it a day and headed back to the station. So that was the end of our first adventure of the day, but little did we know that there’d be another later that day.

Due to our early arrival time and spending much less time than what Luke and I had anticipated at the Park we decided to go and kill some round our joint patch of Bidston Moss. It’s a site which the pair of us are both very fond of and care a great deal for as we see the Moss in a way which others don’t. It was after we’d had a check of the “Back Pools” and Woods that we found ourselves round at the sites main lake; it was here when I took Luke round the back of the Lake to show him were one of the Moss’s special species breeds. As we got to were the species bred last year we noticed a Great crested Grebe dive under the water close to shore, so in order to get some close up shots Luke and I hopped down a step and waited for it to resurface and a few seconds after our arrival it did resurface, but something wasn’t right.

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The Great crested Grebe as it raised from the water, later to be revealed the danger it was in (Image – Luke Anderson)

It was pulling it’s left leg as if it were stuck on something, it was then clear that the bird had its left leg entangled in some fishing line which must of been left by some of the illegal fishermen who regularly use the site. The bird saw us and attempted to make a get away, but being unable to anywhere beyond five meters off the lakes shores we had to get behind cover so that not to cause the bird anymore stress, and that’s when a decision had to be made. I’d contacted local birders and the RSPCA for assistance but neither were able to help, so there were two choices: 1). Walk away and allow the Grebe to die a painful, distressful and unnatural death, or 2). Go in and attempt to save it, try and make a difference. I was aware of risks that going into the water would bring with it, but with Luke being a strong swimmer and myself remembering a few things off a Bear Grylls program I took the decision to go into the Lake and attempt to save the grebe.

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Going into the lakes water to attempt to save the grebe (Image-Luke Anderson)

When I got into the lake and swam over to it the grebe was starting to get noticeability tired so I went over to grab the bird with one hand and bring it to shore; But soon as I went it for the grab the bird dived down below and stayed there. I could not only feel the line rubbing against my leg but I could also feel the cold beginning to take effect, so despite my best efforts I had to get back to shore to warm back up before something serious could of happened. Luke was about to come in for me but I got to shore safe and sound, yet when I turned around the grebe was still underwater ? We were worried that as it dived under it must of gotten even more tanged up in the line, but we were wrong as just as we thought all hope was lost the grebe not only surfaced, but it took off and flew over to far adjacent side of the Lake. The relief was just unprecedented, the bird was safe and could fight to live another day. I’m aware that there are those who would be against going in but I love nature, it’s my life and I wasn’t going to let a Great crested Grebe die a needless death and live the rest of my life knowing that I could of made a difference, could of saved a life but was too scared not to.

So after this rather unexpected journey to patch, we were then graced by the sight of a beautiful adult winter plumaged Meditterian Gull who flew over the lake out towards New Brighton. Don’t think the day could of ended any better.

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The graceful Meditterian Gull as it pasted over the lake. Hand on heart one of the best days of my life (Image – Luke Anderson)

Thanks,

Elliot

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