The past week or so has been particularly rewarding birding-wise with three MEGAs and some excellent back-up birds to boot. First up was an osprey - nothing mega about that you might think but its location, in the skies above my house, instantly promoted it to 'monster' status. Yes, a house tick and one of the best birds I've ever had from my humble abode with its tiny garden and general lack of interesting habitat for miles around. YET - it's my 8th raptor species here and furthermore the last 3 house/ garden ticks have been in a league of their own. Just a week before the osprey I was going through some pics of redpolls that had been visiting my feeder last winter - one was quite clearly a mealy! Not sure how I missed it at the time, but there's no question as to its I/D. The other five star bird from last winter was waxwing, with a number of birds which visited on 4 separate occasions and got me grinning from ear to ear.
|mealy redpoll - retrospective identification!|
A look at my first pied-billed grebe for 15 years was next on the agenda when I was offered a lift for one at Rutland Water, a locality tantalisingly close to Cambridgeshire on a very typical date for an arrival of this rare yank. The bird was present just 2 days so I was lucky to see it on its second. I went with Brendan and together we arrived rather late, with a longer walk than expected. We had views to around 100 metres, with a summer plumaged great northern diver and a single osprey providing distractions from the star bird.
After missing the 1999 crag martin in the Midlands/ Yorkshire (I was in New Zealand and I wasn’t confident I could get to it in time, it being an unpredictable hirundine n’ all) I was delighted to hear last week of the presence of one at Flamborough, though somewhat dismayed to realise that news had broken some two hours before I knew anything of it! I had Ben for the morning so I may not have been able to go but still…thtat's amateurish!
I hastily laid plans and decided to hot foot it north without trying to fill the car. I just wanted to be there as soon as possible. But I was still behind with news and it took a long time for news to come through to me that it had done a bunk. By this time I was just an hour away and I decided to divert to Hornsea Mere, aware of how the last bird had shown up at reservoirs and gravel pits.
As I drove in to the car park a female mallard was being gang-raped by a bunch of drakes. I broke up the party a couple of times but my efforts were futile and their efforts immediately resumed. Here I met Will Soar and we spent the rest of the afternoon checking the hirundines, with 150+ sand martin present and up to 3 swallows. A black swan, female long-tailed duck & velvet scoter along with a pair of tree sparrows and 40+ goldeneye and a sleeping fox provided welcome distractions but there was no sign of the martin.
After some local fish and chips we headed to the Crown &
Anchor pub in Kilnsea where we joined Ash Howe and headed onwards to
the Warren at Spurn where we spent the night.
We were up at 6 and vis-migging all morning, hoping for a lucky flyover. A few migrants appeared – little tern, whimbrel, wheatear, LRP and a handful of hirundines, mainly swallows, but still no martin. The other 2 left at 11am, just 20 minutes before a serin flew over – excellent for me but unlucky for them. That was to be my lucky flyover but 20 minutes after I left, it apparently returned to the obs and showed well in the bushes along with a 2nd bird – it was my turn to feel gripped off when I saw the photo later on Twitter.
|sunrise at Spurn|
|flyover serin - honest!|
With no crag martin sightings for some 24 hrs I headed for home but was stopped in my tracks roughly half way by the news the martin had been sighted again, still in the area of Flamborough Head, though it had been lost to view. I waited at the services for more news. It came. I burned rubber and the VTEC engine system on my trusty Honda Civic Type-R got me to Flamborough in record time. True birding in the fast lane!
As I neared Flamborough it started to rain. This was not good news and I was convinced I'd miss the bird. But on arrival it was showing well at North Landing and soon afterwards was swooping over our heads, sometimes just 3 or 4 metres away - bloody awesome, and 15 years of hurt instantly evaporated!
Last birding trip of the period was one made after work to the Ouse Washes. One particular site near Pymore has racked up an extraordinary collection of rarities in recent weeks, including a drake green-winged teal which was my target on this visit. I joined Nene Washes warden Jon Taylor and started scrutinising a tiny flooded dyke in the distance, the only water for miles around. The light and distance involved made for tough viewing but eventually a rare teal did materialise - but despite being a drake with a white vertical stripe between the breast and flank it wasn't the green-winged, it was the relocating drake Baikal from Fen Drayton! Soon afterwards the GWT appeared, trying to impress the female teal with its head-bobbing display. There wasn't time to search for the nearby great white egret or American wigeon and apparently the following day a pair of glossy ibises and a ruddy shelduck were present on the same area of water as the teal, and a day later still, a cattle egret showed up nearby at the Welches Dam reserve. A real purple patch for one of the best birding sites in this part of the country - As Arnie once said - 'I'll be back!'