Thursday, 7 May 2015

Escape from the patch

You may have noticed I don't get away too often, not since an away day in Liverpool have I seen anything beyond the confines of work and Wanstead, and I am not including seeing my old mum in Cambridge as she makes me work too.

Offered the chance to see a yank wader and finally visit one of the areas in the UK on my wish list or trudge round a June like patch, I jumped. Which was considerably more movement than the Hudsonian Godwit gave us in the hour or so we watched it sleep. It did stretch, flap it's wings and walk through the ranks of its Icelandic cousins, but that was about it, but I came for the Ham Wall/Meare NNR too and was impressed, even if the weather wasn't the greatest. Later the Green-winged Teal, down the road at Greylake RSPB was equally as animated, and hidden. An enjoyable day with the lads and a few year ticks to boot, even if I can't tell the back end of Swan's arse from an Egret's!

On returning to London that evening I headed off to see the old lady and my second patch in Cambridgeshire. Since I go and see me mum about once a month, this new patch always promises something new each time I go. Just a five minute walk from her house it's an agricultural reservoir under construction just outside the village. Sand extraction has ceased, though there are still a couple of huge piles of stuff waiting to be moved, not before a Desert Wheatear turns up I hope!. While the inner banks have been smoothed there's only a small amount of water residing in the bottom, enough for Little Grebe and Tufties to dive in without banging their heads, and lots of shoreline - great for waders. Across the railway tracks to the west are some water meadows where, apparently, the farmer wants to put some holiday chalets (so far refused). To the south a DEFRA wildlife reserve (?) which has a few bits of waterlogged woodland and some scrubby bits. The railway line has reed and sedge filled ditches either side, lined with willow and thorn trees, and of course there is arable land around - so a good mix of habitats.

Open water in this part of the county is hard to find and usually harder to access.  I used to watch a smaller agri-reservoir a few miles away when I was a nipper, where I got my first Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank on passage and a host of other good birds for the area (access there is now prohibited because of Pheasant pens). The new patch has already shown some promise. Over Christmas I had a small flock of Golden Plover and a larger flock of Lapwing - both used to be fairly common in the winter here in the ploughed fields, but since the change to autumn planting both have largely gone. This weekend my first Shelduck for the area popped in and out, a couple of Egyptian Goose floated around the pools and four or more Little Ringed Plover were finding the place much to their liking. Last month it was Ringed Plover on the way through, last year it drew in a Whimbrel and annually Green Sandpiper.  This winter a pair of Stonechat stayed a while, while Meadow Pipit and a possible Water Pipit visited. This Sunday the Sedge Warbler were back singing from the ditches and Whitethroat from the scrubby bits and three Common Tern had a bit of a look around. Plenty of potential as long as the farmer doesn't go and ruin it...

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Took a virgin to Liverpool and only got a yank!

.... and a few year ticks, but that would have ruined the subtelty of the innuendo.

Spoke to Mr Lethbridge about a certain gull that had some how managed to lose its way to New Brighton, on the off-chance that he would like to drive me in comfort for six plus hours. "It's a gull", his reply which was stating the obvious, but it turns out he has overdosed on gulls in the last few weeks with his jolly to the Emirates. So down to me then.  I looked at the trains and shuddered, but as the week progressed my want got the better of me and I caved in about tea time on Friday.

Luckily no one was on the train, due to some last minute cancellation of track maintenance around Watford, though the few that were made up for numbers in their annoyingness - including the guard you was determined to use "there" as punctuation in every sentence.  Nearly ruined the trip.

What also nearly ruined the trip was meeting the dip Monkey and Lee "indoorstoomuch" Brown, but luckily neither was living up to their monicas, and the gull was still present and at times showing stupidly well.  While they went off and returned to form, dipping Snow Bunting just a couple of miles down the coast, and a host of ducks, I had rather a good day.  Would have been better with a bit more sun, but then you have to think about your whites, so probably just as well it was grim up north.

Spent the morning chasing the lachrymose gull around from the beach to its favoured pontoon, where it stuck obstinately clear of my offering of toasted peanut butter sandwiches, and around the basin where it would have brief sorties to try and make friends with the local Black-headed Gull.  Finally nailed it big time on one of these little wanderings and that's when it would have been nice to have a bit of light.

Having filled up a good deal of my memory card with a whole heap of gull looking distracted and bored, I thought I'd have a go at them buntings.  The news wasn't good as in most of the birders I met had failed to meet up with them.  Nothing ventured and all that tosh...

Luckily a couple I'd met had had better luck and been put on to the two birds feeding just below the sea wall in the strand line.  I joined them just as the sun put in a brief appearance, absolute joy.

Still having a few hours to kill before my train and with the sun still shining on and off, I thought I'd pap the gull in some good light. that didn't happen so I went to look for Purple Sandpiper instead.  Bingo, job done with four birds partying with some Turnstone, south of Perch Fort on the concrete breakwater thingy, as the tide came in.

A good day so I got seriously drunk on the train....