… Actually it was quite exciting; I refer instead to the mode of transport, which was bipedal in nature, and took me from Tuckton bridge to Hengistbury, through Wick fields, at the thoroughly unrespectable birding time of 8:15. A nice selection of summer migrants (and the resident Cetti’s warblers exploding away unseen in the undergrowth) kept me amused: Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat were all singing, and Sandwich terns screeched overhead.
Once I got to Hengistbury Head, I joined the CHOGers at the Coastguard Station, which turned out to be a good move, as I was there in time to see a male Hen Harrier heading high out to sea (presumably a New Forest or similar wintering bird on its way back to breeding grounds on the continent). Med Gulls were very much in evidence, mostly picked up by call, and all of them seemed to be paired up. The locals also gave me lots of tips about birding around Christchurch: lots to look forward to this summer, including Nightjars on my doorstep!
Of moderate interest on the walk back: a Jay flying over Wick fields, and Treecreeper in the woods by the Stour.
I arrived at this excellent site quite late (around 1510) as I’d earlier been at an orchestra rehearsal that didn’t happen in Charlton Marshall (I got the wrong date!). I parked in the car park by Tern Hide, where I found out from somebody where the Woodland hide was. The latter proved to give fantastically close views of masses of birds on feeders, including some very smart male Bramblings who were coming into breeding plumage, a few Siskins and Redpolls, a Marsh Tit, and also a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch. Surprisingly all these were on seed feeders: they didn’t seem to have any peanuts.
I walked a bit further on to South Ivy hide, but there wasn’t much there, apart from a distant Jay. Further back at its counterpart North Ivy hide, there was a buzz since a Bittern was showing right in front, but unfortunately it was largely hidden. Luckily, somebody let me have a look through his scope before it vanished, although all I could see was its back!
I had a brief look at Tern hide before leaving, where I also picked up where to find the Bewick’s swans (I hadn’t realised any penetrated this far south!): there were 3 a bit further up at Ibsey bridge, and showed well (or would have done if I’d had a scope, as it was I had to make do with binocular views!)
Apart from the insane number of dog walkers who’d decided that they really had to walk their dogs on a nature reserve, it was a great morning at Stanpit Marsh today. I arrived at about 10:30. After chatting to some regulars about the best spot to watch roosting waders, I was walking closer to the shore along a spit when the sound of pinging Bearded Tits rang through the air! I turned back towards the bridge next to one of the reedbeds, and surprisingly, despite the fairly brisk wind, I soon had fantastic views of a male in the reeds. It, and a female, flitted around for a bit before flying across the path to a pathetically small patch of reeds on the the other side, where I lost them. I heard them call once again after that, but couldn’t see them again.
Other highlights were a Med Gull located amongst the large number of BHGs on the marsh, a nice flock of 50 or so Dunlin, about 30 Black-tailed Godwits, and a Dartford Warbler which crept around in a gorse bush (I suppose I’ll get used to those soon, but at the moment they still seem very exotic!). The supporting cast were the usual Brent Geese, Little Egret, large flocks of Wigeon, a few Pintail, a small flock of Ringed Plover, and a Sparrowhawk which went over (possibly what got the Beardies pinging in the first place).
Not bad for a spot less than 3 miles from home!
Jon Carter found yesterday’s two Temminck’s stints at Aldcliffe on the Wildfowlers’ ponds this morning, so I went down to the gate there at around 0845, to draw the usual blank at this site (there’s just so much of it that you can’t see!). After a few minutes, I decided to go down to Freeman’s pools, where I found Ray Hobbs, who’d also drawn a blank. So I looked there for a while, and then realised there quite a nice linking footpath from Freeman’s pools along the seawall back to the car park, which would allow me to get another view of the WF pools. Not thinking I’d see anything, I stopped at several points to scan the ponds, and lo and behold, just as I was giving up to go home, there they were, yet another lifer after all the excitement of Dorset! They showed for a few minutes, before disappearing up a channel and into an area of reeds. Thinking I might find them again on the other side, I walked back to the car park, then back up to the metal gate, where I found a couple of birders (one of whom turned out to be Neville from Weymouth, who found the Little Bittern at Lodmoor, up here for a holiday!)
I had (another) busy day today, after the Haffner yesterday, so I didn’t have a chance to go and get a better view of the Leighton White-tailed Plover (which reappeared on Friday, teasing people by flying around the reedbeds!). At about 6 though, I drove down, and joined what turned out to be dipping birders on the causeway (it had flown off about an hour ago). After standing there for a while, I decided to go to the “road” viewpoint in the EM pool direction, but it hadn’t turned up there either, so I went up to the Crag Road viewpoint to see if it had turned up there. A brief look through didn’t turn anything up, and I was just having a bit of a nap in the evening sunshine when Graham the Chef turned up, excitedly asking me if I’d seen it! He’d seen it on somebody’s pager as showing on the EM pool. I then had another look, and located it on a patch of water just behind the pool. The distance meant it was hard to be sure to begin with, but as we took in the long yellow legs and funny walk, we realised we must be on the right bird. A wingflap was just the icing on the cake, and we then had great views as it walked around on the pool. There was a heart-stopping moment (well, if you were a just-arriving twitcher anyway) when it took off and flew very high over the marsh, only to swing right round and return to exactly the same spot! It remained for perhaps 20-30 minutes, before flying off again. This time, after gaining height in the same way, it descended to land on the marsh, just beyond where the grass stops. We watched this dot for a while, before it flew low, and disappeared between the grass and the mud (i.e. still out there, but not visible). So my verdict is that it’s probably still out there, but there were no further reports as I write this!
I’d been idly/anxiously watching the progress of the White-tailed Plover up at Caelaverock (on the Scottish side of the Solway) in the last few days. It was the first twitchable bird for 30 years, so I thought it might be worth a trip up there, but I didn’t have any time. Imagine my astonishment then, when I received (while clearing up for the Haffner Open Garden) a text via RBA’s SMS service saying that the damn thing had just turned up on the Eric Morecambe pools. This was at 5:05 pm, and I had to help Ruth Self (a fellow player) take down all the signs we’d put up this morning along the road. As we were walking back to the car, I broached the subject of making “a little detour” to the EM pools, and she seemed happy enough when I explained the rarity of the bird (which I thought was pretty considerate ). So, stopping to take down the signs which were on our route from Linden Hall to Leighton, we got to the hide about 5:45, and I was relieved to find the bird still showing. I bloke very kindly let me look through his scope, as I was optic-less except for the crappy Minoltas we keep in the car (shame it was an opticron, but beggars can’t be choosers…). I had reasonably good views, and saw a wing-stretch, and took a vaguely identifiable shot with my phone through my benefactor’s scope! Ruth, who was interested enough to come with me to the hide, also got a look at it, so that’s another bizzare addition to a non-birder’s life list.
I took Ruth home, then went home myself to say hello to the ‘rents who’d just got back from their Scottish holiday. After having a bit to eat, and hanging around for a bit, I decided to go back with my camera and scope, despite the lack of sightings (it flew off at 6:30!). I watched for some time at the Crag Road viewpoint with some birders from Cheltenham and Huddersfield, but we had to make do with a Spoonbill as the WTP was nowhere to be seen. As a last-ditch attempt to see the bird properly, I went down the EM pool turnoff where 30 or so birders were hanging around, along with Jacqui from Leighton, who was acting as a marshal, complete with yellow jacket! Still no sign of the bloody thing: perhaps it’s nipped back up to Caerlaverock… I did, however, have nice views of a feeding Noctule bat (as identified by Jacqui) in the beautiful sunset.
A last minute offer on somebody’s house changed tonight’s planned quartet-playing session into a trio-playing session. Before leaving campus, I had a quick trawl through the library, and dug out some Beethoven and Haydn string trios, and Schubert’s piano trio No.1 in B flat. Alex the viola player transformed himself into a violinist for the first part of the evening (which, after a clef-settling-in period, went ok!). I was, I’m afraid, struck by the length and repititous nature of the Schubert, though it’s definitely great music!
Jon Carter rang while I was cooking tea this evening to say there was a Night Heron by the Shaw Street bridge on the canal. The bad news was that it was an escapee, as evidenced by a bright red ring on the left leg. Even so, as it was only three minutes walk away, I toddled down with my scope and new camera to get some pictures: it was worth it just for the spectacle of seeing such an exotic bird is such a grubby place, what with the scaffolding (the footbridge is being repaired just now) and rubbish strewn along the canal bank
More birding today, I decided to fit in some relaxed Eric Morecambe pool-ing in between Chaplaincy services, in the hope of seeing the Spoonbill reported yesterday. The usual crowd of Avocets were kluut-ing around all over the place, and a summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank put in a brief appearance (and then proceeded to call from some distant corner of the pool where I couldn’t see it). About 10 Black-tailed Godwits (goodness, you didn’t want me to count them did you?). Growing tired of being “inside” on such a fantastic day, I decided to drive up to the Crag Road viewpoint. This proved to be a good move, as I then connected with the Spoonbill, the first I’ve seen for many years! It was happily spooning away at the far corner of the EM pool (possibly not visible from the hide, although I suppose it might have flown in while I was on my way up to the viewpoint). I then had the idea of killing two birds with one stone (it’s the way I tell em) and moving on to Warton Crag, where the local Peregrines showed extremely well (the male that is) and I had a nice chat with some day-tripping scousers (I even let them try my bins, and I was gratified to find my hubcaps still in place when I got back). Despite my need for a better camera (I’m considering the Coolpix 5000 just now), I got some reasonable shots of the male peregrine through the scope: they’ve been Facebooked here
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