Thursday, 6 June 2013

Hits Dips Lips Power!*

Thrush Nightingale, Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland - Monday 20th May 2013

It’s been an eventful few weeks in the birding life of indiebirder. Unfortunately, too many of those events have been dips! But there have been some hits too...

My first lifer of the spring was a LITTLE BUNTING at Elba Park, Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham. This bird had been first noted on 2nd November 2012 and stayed for another week. It wasn’t reported after that, so maybe it had moved on… Then on 8th April 2013 it was seen again, same place. Either it had been feeding/roosting elsewhere during the bad weather over winter, or I guess the locals weren’t looking for it during that time, or both… Either way, it took me until the evening of Friday 12th April to see it after work.

This was not an easy bird to pick up. When I arrived some birders were viewing/filming it from inside the plantation, gradually forcing the Little Bunting, and Reed Buntings it was with, through the scrub. I couldn’t pin it down. Eventually, as the light faded and only four birders were left on site, it started making a chip-chip-chip call from a post near the fence. Well, I could hear the call clearly, but couldn’t place it. A photographer was on it (good job I noticed – he didn’t call me over), and me and another birder arrived in time to watch it calling at close range for 60 seconds while I also tried (unsuccessfully) to get the last birder on to it.

A cracking, well-marked bird: with dark head stripes, lovely chestnut ear coverts, a distinctive straight-sided metallic-looking bill. It flew off high south, to roost. Cheers to the finder and refinder (who refound it on 8th April, not that selfish photographer…).

Only a few days later… and I was panting up the street to get the car for a trip Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. This time for a drake BAIKAL TEAL, on Monday 15th April 2013. This bird had been seen coming in off the sea with two wigeon by famous Flamborough sea-watcher Brett Richards, eventually pitching up at Northcliff Marsh. Good enough credentials already. Timing was good (spring movements well under way), weather patterns about right, no zoos missing any birds… It was nailed on.

The bird showed well while I was there – after waking up – and it wandered around and swam giving good views the assembled crowd (particularly those on the hide roof…). I know, it’s behaviour wasn’t exactly fascinating, but that awesome plumage was worth the effort.

The best way to see Baikal Teal - Northcliff Marsh, Monday 15th April 2013

I dipped the Rock Thrush at Spurn on Saturday 27th April, which was a disappointment to say the least. Sigh. I’d been in Manchester on a training course for the duration of its two-day stay. These things happen. Small compensation was had when travelling back from Spurn I decided to call in at my beloved Rodley Nature Reserve (something of a local patch for me) and stumbled across three patch ticks (Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover, and Common Sandpiper), and the reserve’s first Swifts of the year.

I got up to Scotland for the May Day bank holiday weekend - separate report here. Later in May at Rodley, while doing  theWeBS count on Sunday 12th,, I added another patch tick for Rodley: Collard Dove! In ten years of visiting Rodley, I’d never seen one on the reserve itself – always just off in the nearby gardens, not viewable from on site. Patch list now up to 88.

During the same WeBS survey, I finally got my first Sedge and Garden Warblers of 2013. The GWs were very vocal and showed well, well outnumbering the Blackcaps on site. Is this a feature of this year? Since then I’ve seen more GWs than BCs.

I’ll not mention the fact I wasn’t allowed to go for the Dusky Thrush in Kent on 18th May (the last day of it’s 4-day stay). Well, maybe a brief mention. Grrr…

Anyway, there some compensation in the THRUSH NIGHTINGALE on the evening of Monday 20th May – another post-work twitch. I met up with Joel, the Secret Twitcher, and was quickly on site and getting really good views.

 Thrush Nightingale, Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland - Monday 20th May 2013

Thinking the weather looked good, we continued on north to Holy Island, which was promising some good stuff: Icterine Warbler, lesser Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, etc… Unfortunately, it was raining heavily when we arrived, meaning my much-wanted Icky Warbler was unlikely to show. After 45 minutes peering in to soggy garden (and watching Chaffinches feed their young in a nest close to the wall), I headed off to meet up with Joel. On route, a Barn owl swooped low over a hedge – very close to my face – and the Lesser Grey Shrike could be seen on a distant post, a nice year tick. I caught up with Joel, but the Red-backed Shrike eluded me, but a hunting Short-eared Owl and close reeling Gropper are always good compensation.

So, not a bad a spring so far. Just made to seem bad because of those dips…

* With apologies to Silverfish

No comments:

Post a Comment