Tuesday, 30 August 2016

After long unproductive stint on the patch...

O(a)r(e) don't stint on the stints

What is happening with Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper? Hundreds are being noted up and down the country where usually only tens are counted.  I would love to think that is because these arctic waders are doing well and everything is rosy in the world, but sadly that wont be the case.  Some weird weather systems that we can't appreciate or register even in our daily digest of all things weather related in this country, had brought these annuals in hefty volumes.

My previous with both species had been one or two (or in the case of Curlew Sands 4-5 at Rainham), distant specks round the feet of their leggy cousins. Today I took the offer of a lift from James H to  have an afternoon down at Oare.  Kent has the best light for any wader watching in the Thames estuary–it's always to the south–and Oare has the best set up for close encounters.

OK I had gone on the off-chance of the Baird's being firmed up following a "probable" sighting late morning, but the chance of seeing dozens of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper was enough to unloose the shackles of a lacklustre patch.

Hundreds of Golden Plover, good numbers of Little Ringed Plover of all ages, Godwits (always godwits here), Spotted Redshank, scores of Redshank (I don't think I've ever seen a flock, and by that I mean scores of birds, as large), tens of Ruff, Lapwing, Snipe, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin, Knot–a veritable wader banquette and the main stars over 30 of each of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. While the Curlew Sands kept their distance the Stints occasionally came really close, but being the size of a sparrow, they could have come a lot closer to make photography easier.  Some of the images that have been on the internet have been stunning, the scope views were just draw dropping.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Back home

Every month I go and visit the little old lady in Stapleford who is my mother.  She makes me try and do chores, I manage to wriggle out of them by falling asleep. I also manage to slip out of the house for a few hours down to an agricultural reservoir under construction just under a mile from the house.  It has to be said this is a wonderful little patch and every time there is something of interest.  Last night I refound the Pyramid Orchid (now plural) and well over 50 Bee Orchids–looking rather shabby and well past their best. Today, well!


First up a Marbled White, my first here ever (and for the local), and then as I wondered slowly through the grass with my eyes to the floor, I chanced to look up.  A large raptor was moving west over the water meadows just to the south of the village and just to the north of me  I presumed a buzzard, but it didn't appear so as I had in my bins. Dark and long fingered I could get no structure on the upper or lower wings, Slightly greyer head and some two or three tones going on the back and wings.  So probably Marsh Harrier I concluded seeing as Fowlmere is a few miles to the west and Marsh Harriers are not unusual there, but I had some doubt.  Something reminded me of the Black Kite I had up the Roding last year.  Both would a first for me in the area.  I changed lenses and rattled off a few sadly distant images.  However on looking at them later I noted a slightly forked tail. Certainly wasn't a Red Kite, as we had one fly over the house later which would have been a house tick for my mum had she not seen one last time I was back (she did add Hobby though!).

So a Black Kite?  No reports on RBA though... The consensus coming from later tweets: not enough fingers, ah well. Done by a Marsh Harrier again. Yay patch tick!

Cue horribleness...

Funny last time I had to put a report in on a raptor in London (2 Honey Buzzards over Beckton) I had to do the same for 2 Honey Buzzard over Stapleford (on my mum's house list), still have to do the BK for last year, and might need to stick this one in for Cambridgeshire!

Things were quiet on the reservoir, a few Tufties and a single Little Ringed Plover–I presume they bred, but I didn't try too hard to find the proof. Today was about chasing butterfly and that was good: Brown Argus, Ringlet, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Laarge and Small Skipper, Large White and Green-veined White

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Norfolking pictures of a Great Knot

I didn't manage to see last year's Great Knot as it arrived and departed while I was training intern bankers, ah well! This year I thought my chance of catching up with this superb bird were also a lost cause–the Saturday I had free was winterish and there had been no sign of the bird, so I went back to bed. It popped up again and appeared to be getting into a routine–this time I will get you!

Roll-on the weekend checking its presence on RBA it was all go, apart from the enthusiasm squashed by millions of my fellow countryfolk.  Somehow I found myself at Kings Cross, no thanks to ongoing work on the tube.  A bitter tweet later and I find that I am not the only birder from London on the pilgrimage.  Jonathan Wassse is ahead of me and already on the "hopper" speeding circuitously through north-west Norfolk, until like a tagged-harrier his signal is lost along the coast. The bird was at Gore Point but now has flown with its cohort of thousands of regular Red Knot up to Scolt Head. Titchwell I reckoned would be the best bet.

After  12:00 I finally arrived at Titchwell and immediately felt better at this most intimate of reserves, it didn't appear too busy–the usual mix of hapless and the intense birder community.  I had a peak at the Knot on the scrape, a couple of Ruff too, the male still in breeding neck adornment and still a bit frisky, in the company of Sean Kerrigan, now becoming a bit of a fixture at Wanstead (could have given me a bloody lift me thinks!). We decide to mootch down to the beach where a falling tide might bring in our target. It didn't but never mind, it served up a mixture of Common, Little and Sandwich Tern, some Barwits, a Curlew and looking back over the marshes a Spoonbill and a fly-by Hobby–more than enough to pass the time by quickly.  I may have also been smitten by a young lady with blonde hair who was in the expectant crowd.

Jonathan W was there too and some of his birding chums from Barnsley, who I could just about understand. Time ticked on, too late for Sean who had to get back to London, and the tide gradually receded down the beach exposing the oyster beds that Knot were meant to favour.  A few hundred popped over the dunes to have a feed but the Scolt Head mob just bombed through west. So Gore Point is then. Jono and I made to leave, but I got distracted by a very showy Spotted Redshank close to the path still in much of its summer plumage. Well you would.

Not so Mr Wasse, made of sterner stuff, who ventured off on his own.  After a a quick coffee and a check of the bus times–one was on its way–and the coffee ends up in a bush.  Time enough on the bus to realise I wasn't actually sure where Gore Point was, no matter I would do the decent thing and walk from Thornham and check the beach along the way. Of course now I was playing against the clock and the last "hopper" back to Kings Lynn, and I would have probably missed the action if it hadn't been for birders coming the other way.

Jonathan meanwhile I had been offered a lift round to Holm Golf Course and had made it to the point way ahead of everyone and with a few minutes of setting up his scope had the bird.  Unfortunately he couldn't get the news out until another birder with a Norfolk friendly service rolled up. When I arrived a small gaggle were present and luckily so was the bird in amongst thousands of reds.  It kept to the back and every so often would scurry through the crowd and disappear again.  Smart bird, rather like a big Turnstone, which reminds me I still need that!