Sunday, 14 June 2015

South coast shenanigans... 13th June 2015

Another new bird beckoned me out of my slumber yesterday morning and at 2am I took myself off to RSPB Pagham Harbour in West Sussex in search of my second Hudsonian named wader of the spring. This one was the North American equivalent of our Whimbrel and had been probing away around the mud flats since Tuesday. After a painless drive down I ventured out on the walk down at a mild but blustery and very overcast and damp 4.45am. Plenty of bird song despite the weather with Cuckoos still going at it madly and lots of warbler song with the back drop of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Black-headed Gulls, Sandwich and Little Terns. 

Once down to Church Norton we quickly found and dismissed four (albeit smart) ‘normal’ Whimbrel before picking up the real deal a little further up the creek. Over the next hour superb views were had, as it caught and ate small crabs with some nimble bill work. Far more striking than I was expecting and I am not the only one to have said that it reminded me more of images of Bristle Thighed Curlew than our own European one with a strikingly contrasting facial pattern, plain looking underparts and a long gently curved more Curlew like bill rather than the Gonzo-effect of ours. A few flaps and wings lifts revealed the tell tale concolourous rump and obvious cinnamony underwings; the latter, a feature I was unaware of.   

Hudsonian Whimbrel...

The Huge Twitch
The tide was on the way in so I blagged a lift back to my car with Dawn and Pete (thanks guys!) and then followed them to Posbrook Flash at nearby Titchfield to look for the long staying but generally tricky Greater Yellowlegs.

The pool was superb and we soon had about 70 Black-tailed Godwit feeding in the shallows with a single Avocet and Green Sandpiper for company but no ‘legs’. RBA were reporting that despite the early hour it had already been seen and thankfully I picked it up just a couple of minutes later.  This was my first for 21 years and in full sparkling, spangley summer plumage of blue-grey and black with barred flanks and amazingly bright yellow shanks. 

 Greater Yellowlegs with Blackwits
Another quality bird and nice to catch up with a long stayer having seen it popping up on the pager for several months.  Three Med Gulls gave me my larid fix before I packed up and headed for home.  Had it been a nice day I was going to head 20 miles further west to Acres Down to look for Honey B’s and such like. It was not and so I did not...

I got home at 11am and was just planning my post snooze afternoon when Bradders rings with the horrific news that an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear has been found at... Acres Down in the New Forest.  I only asked him last Saturday to let me know if one turned up! My bogey bird with memories of failing to get to Stiffkey way back in 1993 for the autumn long stayer (blame that on my dissertation and a broken clutch!) and a dipped bird on Upton Heath in about 2000.  Should I stay or should I go... at first I said no but it was a male and well... how often do I get the chance of another two tick day?

I met up with Bradders and Nick at Bluewater and off we went. The traffic was a little sticky but after picking up a stranded Oliver on the M3 we made good time and by about 3pm we were on site only to be told they had just lost it. A tense 20 minutes before a swift uphill squelch and there it was in all its pied glory. This eastern bird was of the black-throated form and yes I know I saw dozens in Lesvos just a few short weeks ago but this was different and very satisfying. 

We watch him hunting from burnt gorse for some time with little sallies to the ground with tail spread and wings flicking.  In flight you only see a white shape bouncing around like it is on elastic. 

Some ponies spooked him and he flew miles into the distance before eventually returning and landing out of view.  This was our cue to search for other things and over the next hour the Goshawks performed excellently along with Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Stonechat and singing Firecrest.  Silver Studded Blues landed invisibly and I will have to check with Kettle but I believe I could hear Bog Bush Crickets... 

The wheatear had been refound in a horse paddock where it was watched in more relaxed surroundings as it sunned itself on a stump before we called it a day and hit the road.   

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Who would have thought that not only would I add five new birds to my British list since the start of May but that four should have been seen in the course of two amazing days birding?

Today my bogey was well and truly picked.....


  1. Great article, let us be the first to comment and to congratulate you on your new blog. Nice picks too. Louis & Gosia