Monday, 19 November 2012

A birding smorgasbord

I've been out and about quite a bit over the last few days...

Last Thursday (15th) I went over to Exminster Marsh in the afternoon hoping for a Short-eared Owl or a Merlin. I didn't find either, but had an interesting time nevertheless, spending most of my time near Topsham Lock (or rather where Topsham Lock used to be). Of note:
  • A Whooper Swan was with several Mute swans at the back of the Marsh near the railway.
  • Several Cettis Warblers singing
  • The Starlings put on a great display, it was mesmerising to watch them swirling about. Several small groups took me by surprise, flying low over my head from behind to join the main flock. The 'whoosh' as they went over made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
  • Whilst scanning with the scope as it was getting dark, a Ring-tail Hen Harrier flew straight towards me low over the Marsh before dropping down out of site in the vegetation.
  • There was a commotion behind me as a male Sparrowhawk battled with a Starling on the opposite canal bank. The Sparrowhawk won, but not without a lot of effort & lots of squealing from the Starling.
On Friday morning I nipped down to the Lifeboat Station on Exmouth front. I didn't see much, but I did manage to get my first ever reasonable photo using my little 'point & shoot' camera down the scope. It was a Redwing that flew in from the sea & dropped down at the back of the beach. It must have been exhausted as it didn't even move when several dog walkers & a runner went by a few yards away.

Tired Redwing
Saturday (17th) was the Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society trip to the Somerset Levels. A small group of us met at Westhay Moor & spent the morning wandering around the reserve. It was very quiet, although I did manage to put 35 species on my list and at least the weather was pleasant.

    Bird sculpture at Westhay

Just before lunch a Great White Egret flew in and as it landed a Harrier flew by behind it. Typical, no 'good' birds all morning, then two together. Only a couple of us saw the Harrier, and no one got a good enough look to identify it. Luckily a few minutes later a lovely male Marsh Harrier gave us good views as it glided low over the reeds on the opposite side of the reserve.

A blurry digiscoped Great White Egret
After lunch we relocated to Shapwick Heath, parking at the Avalon Marsh Visitor Centre and walking to the Decoy Hide. Again it was very quiet & I only managed to add another 7 species to the day list. A Smew was apparently seen from the hide on Sunday, did it turn up after we left or was it hiding?
A large Redwing flock liked the drain bank

And so to yesterday, and a trip to Birmingham. Simon wanted to go to the Classic Bike show at the NEC, so I went along to keep him company. Well as far as the entrance anyway, where I dropped him off and continued North another 10 miles or so to visit the Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve. Or to be more precise, the Drayton Bassett Pit where a White-rumped Sandpiper had been hanging about for a few days. I was glad I'd followed the Birdguides advice & worn my wellies as it was a 20 minute walk through deep mud to get to the pit. There were quite a few birders about and I was told where the sandpiper was, which unfortunately was at the back of the pit behind a mound of mud. It had disappeared from view just before I arrived.
 The White-rumped Sandpiper was hiding at the back..

There no other waders visible in the pit, so I got excited when one emerged from behind the hump, but unfortunately it was a Green Sandpiper. However, after about 40 minutes the White-rumped Sandpiper came back into view. Although it was a long way off, it was still possible to see all of its distinguishing features, including its white rump as it preened. After about 5 minutes I decided to try & digiscope a record shot, at which point it went back behind the hump. I waited until lunch time hoping it would come back out, but it was still hidden when I left.

The twitch..
The mud...
After lunch I dashed down to the Kingsbury Water Park to see if I could find a Willow Tit on the feeders. I didn't, but I did see a lovely male Goldeneye on the lake.
Year List now on 209.
(For some reason Blogger is no longer  giving me the option of enlarging my photos. I have no idea why)

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