Thursday, 18 June 2015

Those other three new birds... a retrospective recap

Evening all...  to put the last six weeks into perspective I thought I would load up my other two, tick related write ups that I previously posted on Facebook, this time with some extra images.
Enjoy...

Let's start with the the Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset...
3rd May 2015:


So, yes, I did only get back home from Lesvos at about 7 last night and yes I did have a nice lie in and nearly 12 hours sleep but then I cracked and headed west to Somerset where this stunning Hudsonian Godwit was enjoyed between showers on the wonderful Meare Heath section of the Avalon Marshes complex. It is 32 years since the last record in Britain and is probably something of a once in a lifetime bird in the UK for most of us. 



As well as this black underwinged beauty there were three Great White Egrets in breeding dress floating around as well as a dozen Hobbies, booming Bitterns, quartering Marsh Harriers and Buzzards, chattering warblers, Cuckoo, my first UK Swifts this year while the Hudwit was keeping company with a smart flock of Icelandic Blackwits, 12 black-bellied Dunlin, Redshank and a male Ruff. 

  The journey home was swift and trouble free with the rain chasing us all the way... A happy Howard....

and then just over a week later..... the Norfolk Double...


11th May 2015 


So... the filthy twitcher reared his old and woolly head again last night and despite having been at work from 3am till close, the temptation of the male Citril Finch in Burnham Overy Dunes was just too much and having Monday off compounded the issue.
The grass that has not been mown this year would have to be left for yet another day and a proper night’s sleep would also have to be shelved. Not long after I went to bed I got up again and headed for Norfolk and by just after 4am I was the sole occupant of the layby on the main road. With a fair walk down I ambled off and enjoyed a quality pre-dawn chorus of Grey Partridges, Skylarks, Sedge Warblers and Cuckoos. Two Bitterns counter-boomed from the reeds and four Spoonbills glided back towards the colony trees while Cormorants headed the other way. A couple of Brown Hares lolloped across the path and several bats were still on the wing. 

Two Barn Owls quartered the meadows and a Bittern flew by and ditched into a small channel where it instantly became invisible. Being so early meant that the dune section was thankfully quiet so that I could concentrate on not putting my foot down a rabbit infested hole and only a couple of Wheatears, a very stroppy Oystercatcher and two early rising Buzzards were noted. 
Once down at the dune hollows that border the pines where the bird was hanging out yesterday, it quickly became apparent that almost no one had gambled on a first light visit, preferring to wait on news. 
Under an hour later the shout went up and we scampered to where the bird had been seen. Over the next half hour we saw the Citril Finch on several occasions, all in flight, but thankfully some at close range allowing the vibrant yellow in the wings and rump and even the grey nape to be seen and it was quite vocal too and most often picked up calling before we saw it. It was not pushed but was obviously fidgety and to be honest it was not surprising that on one of its more energetic circuits it headed over the pines and to the best of my knowledge never came back again all day.
We all spent the next couple of hours searching but there was no sign although I did pick up seven Tree Pipits and 12 Yellow Wagtails heading over along with a stream of west bound hirundines. There was more Spoonbill and Barn Owl action and I found a very late adult female Hen Harrier and a tail shivering male Redstart. Offshore a huge raft of Scoter bobbed just feet offshore and Little Terns ‘kiricked’ up and down while a pair of adult Med Gulls noisily proclaimed their presence. The walk back was punctuated with hopeful words for those arriving and good views of Marsh Harriers and several Red Kites.

Looking back to where the crowd was dejectedly waiting....
Some Stone Curlews and breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe restored me somewhat before heading for the trip of 17 hazy but smart, stop-start Dotterel in a huge field at Choseley that was more flint than soil. Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Skylarks and Grey Partridges added to the feel of a bygone countryside. Down to RSPB Titchwell for a short walk that added some smart Bar and Blackwits, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper and a silver back male Scaup to the list but the wind was getting up and I decided to head homewards...

Well that was before the news of a male Moltoni’s Subalpine Warbler broke from Blakeney Point. This new split has only been properly documented a couple of times in the UK before and so another tick was up for grabs but the sheer thought of seven miles of shingle horrified me and it was only news of a boat in 45 minutes time that sent me to Morston (narrowly avoiding the Biking Birder on the way – good to see you gary and hope you got it!). Fifty people had gathered but the news on the bird was negative and the fact that it was a one way trip did not help and a long walk back down the Point to Coastguards and then back along the coast to Morston only compounded the impending trauma. 


  
But when the boats arrived we all got on and headed out on the critically low tide passing some Arctic Terns and Brents on the way. It was like a birders Normandy landing with boats grounded, planks out and fully equipped passengers unsteadily out. Amazingly the bird had been re-found and now had a female for company and within a few minutes the stunning male with his completely pink washed underparts was in full view in the canopy of the fresh leafed Sycamore in the plantation. The female was lurking lower down but unfortunately neither called while I was there. 

Moltoni's Warbler - cheers to Gary Prescott for the shot!

 
The Sycamore of Happiness (related to one at Channerwick on Shetland)
I spied Dave Norgate heading back to his tiny charter boat and quickly asked if there was room and having had my fill of this lovely little bird I turned tail and ran for the boat before the tide made an escape impossible. Launching was a bit hairy as I had to push the boat out and leap on board while getting off onto a floating, wobbly pontoon back at Morston was even more challenging but submerged sandals rather than up to my waist in the creek was a small price to pay for not having to spend the next few hours walking shingle and tarmac. 
The boat back....
 
Feeling elated I headed south to my previous intended final stop of RSPB Lakenheath where I had the place to myself until I left just before seven. Bitterns boomed, Marsh Harriers skydanced, Beardies pinged and several Hobbies hawked for dragons. No sign of the Cranes but a fully plumed Great White Egret was superb and two Cuckoos in a mad duet were thoroughly entertaining.




And so what had started out as a mad twitch had transformed itself into a full on bird filled extravaganza with not one but two new birds for my UK list (and no, I am not telling you what it is). The last time that happed was 21 years ago when Song Sparrow was watched among the Zinc bars at Seaforth in Merseyside and my only Greater Yellowlegs was enjoyed as it chased tiddlers in the idyllic setting of Rockcliffe in Cumbria.

Tomorrow will mostly be about resting although I may leave the grass for a while longer and find somewhere else to go birding....


************************************
And so, there you have it, the two amzaing days that awaited me when I came back from my Lesvos break. And who would have thought that within a month another two tick day would present itself.  Would I have liked to see the Great Blue Heron and Cretzschmar's Bunting?  Yes, but I resent day tripping the Scillies as I always want more and to be honest the same could be said of a first visit to Bardsey but I am not greedy and I think that I am getting more enjoyment out of my birding now than I ever had...


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