Thursday, 14 May 2015

Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath, Someset - Saturday 2nd May 2015

The one that didn't get away! This lovely American wader looked like being a one-day wonder, but eventually reappeared to give late-comers like me a chance to see it.

Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath, Somerset - Saturday 2nd May, 2015

It was originally found by Tom Raven on the Meare Heath part of Shapwick Heath NNR on the evening of Friday 24th April; but he understandably took time to check out the ID before releasing the news. Fortunately it was still present the following morning and Tom released the news early. Only the third for Britain - what a great find!

The bird stuck around until 16:15, giving birders from all over the country time to get there before it flew off. Unfortunately, I had house jobs and family commitments all day, plus I was leading an RSPB event the following day, so I wasn't likely to get to see it. I heard there were lots of disappointed birders on site the following morning; whereas I was at home preparing for the guided walk, just glad not to have made a wasted trip.

More RSPB duties meant I was at Leighton Moss on Wednesday 29th, when the bird reappeared at Meare Heath. Would it stay until the weekend? Probably not... So it was with some trepidation that Joel and I parked up at Shapwick around 06:15 on Saturday 2nd May and walked the short journey to Meare Heath. Plenty of birders present. Was it there...? Well, of course it was, or I wouldn't be writing this or putting these fantastic* photos on my blog (* sarcasm doesn't really work on the web, does it?).

The flock of 114 Black-tailed Godwits were sleeping at the back of the scrape. And there at the back of the group, mostly obscured from view, was a darker bird with its head tucked in - the Hudsonian Godwit. It was clearly different (though I knew it was there and what it was - so I'm not dissing the finder), but it when the flock was spooked that it really stuck out. Such a dark bird, black underwing, with a darker head, neck and breast, and barring all the way to the tail. It had a black tail with the white base, similar to the Black-tailed Godwits, and was roughly the same size, but otherwise it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath, Somerset - Saturday 2nd May, 2015

When feeding its darker appearance was also very striking, the barring giving it the appearance of an over-sized Stilt Sandpiper.

There was an abundance of otherwise difficult-to-see birds on show too. A Bittern, booming out in the open was a rare treat.

Bittern, Meare Heath, Somerset - Saturday 2nd May, 2015

Further treats were the several Great White Egrets, including a nice side-by-side comparison with a Little Egret, circa twelve Cetti's Warblers that we heard and occasionally saw, decent Garden Warbler views, hunting Marsh Harriers, singing Cuckoos, first Swifts of the year, and lots more besides.

Great White Egret, Meare Heath, Somerset - Saturday 2nd May, 2015

Marsh Harrier, Meare Heath, Somerset - Saturday 2nd May, 2015

The Hudsonian Godwit stuck around all weekend, being seen last on the evening of Sunday 3rd May, before the godwit flock left over night, presumably heading north towards Iceland.

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