Having being part of the Next Generation Birders since its foundation last year has come with many bonuses, meeting like minded folk of a similar interest from around the country, nearby and also good dose's of banter, humor and information!
In fact, i have been part of it since before its foundation having also been part of the group since it's precursor 'Young Birders' which remained an outside public view group of young birders for its duration.
Back in early December, i received a message from two of the members of the group who were going up for the drake Baikal Teal near Southport and wondered if i wanted to join them. After a little planning i agreed, as the bird looked a good candidate for a wild bird.
So at an early hour in the morning, the 3 of us, Sean from Portland (our driver) and Espen from Hereford set the sat-nav for Marshside!
A few hours later, we found ourselves scanning thousands of Wigeon and Teal moving up the 'coast road' adjacent to the estuary looking over towards Blackpool tower. Pink-Footed Goose were flying around and calling everywhere, but our main focus was admittedly on the ducks. We located a since drake Pintail on the saltmarsh side of the road but our main target eluded us and negative news was emerging.
We walked a fair distance along the road until we saw the twitch on the seawall. From here there was lots of activity, hundreds of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal, with smaller numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and a single male Ruff.
In the distance i picked up a GREAT-WHITE EGRET, but when i say distant, i mean distant, but its yellow bill made it stand out quite well.
The crowd on the sea wall was becoming restless. Only 1 person had claimed the bird and that was a lot earlier. At this point it was somewhat surprising to see my two recent stalkers, Martyn (Now back into the Blogging scene) and Kay who had apparently 'missed' their turning for Cannock Chase and turned up at Southport! Bit of an overshoot there!
Having been battered by rather heavy winds for only around 10 minutes, Martyn came up to me and proclaimed it had just been pagered as being seen on Marshside, where we had just walked from!
A mass exodus occurred as the scrum walked, jogged and ran back to Marshside.
A seemingly long walk had us arriving at as relatively small gathering of Twitchers scanning a flock of Wigeon (One of the flocks that were too distant from our earlier point of view) and were quickly guided onto the bird, which proved a little difficult to pick up at first glance, but soon, everyone settled down to enjoy this stunning Siberian duck.
No doubt absolutely shattered from its long flight, the bird spent all but around 20 seconds of the time we were watching it asleep. Drake BAIKAL TEAL must surely be one of the best looking of the worlds wildfowl, with that stunning black, green and yellow head pattern and those stunning drooping orange back feathers.
After our fill, we bode farewell, but it would have been a shame to have not gotten a crowd shot, so we did.
A true failure of a twitch down to Severn Beach, the Desert Wheatear had left overnight, and a distant, flying silhouetted, no calling view of 3 Finches flying from the Saltmarsh were about as close as we got to the Twites, but there is no way i would claim them on that sort of view. A pair of Stonechats were about the only things about.
News of a GREAT-GREY SHRIKE emerged from Hopwood, and we duly headed over there, to get distant views of it perched in the field behind the first field from the road. Not at all good views, but my first in county Shrike so worth the effort for one of these wintertime specialties.
From here we did the roost at Bartley, which was very quiet, with no rare gulls despite a fairly large roost. The 2 long staying SCAUP (1W Drk + Fem) were compensation though for the freezing fingers and the dog crap on my Converse.
The next day we, (that being a selection of the Next Gen Birders) had planned to head up to the Mynd, but having returned from my birding foray the previous day the day plan changed somewhat!
Yorkshire was the destination. Why? One of the very elite of Gulls. One of that band of 'ultra' Gulls which stand head and shoulders above the rest. Most of which live in the far north.
A band of Gull's so sexy that only the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis rival them. Yes folks! Really. That good!
So, having being picked up by James and Espen we headed over to the home of Matt, the voted chairman of the NGB's and then set on our way to Patrington!
A big set back on the way up followed, when news came though that the bird WAS NOT present....
Errm, really not good!
However we failed to let our driver know in fear of turning back so we plowed on Patrington bound!
Just before Humber came into view a quick check of RBA revealed the bird to have been found somewhere near Spurn Point, no doubt feeding on one of the many Seal carcasses that would have been washed ashore following the Tidal Surge that destroyed the Eastern coastline.
Soon after it flew off westwards and arrived for the waiting crowds at Patrington.
We were soon parked and the walking began.
Walking out to the water building and then overlooking the Humber we were led onto a bright white IVORY GULL sitting on the rocks! Awesome! Sadly, with the freezing and strong winds we struggled to see much more than just a completely white Gull as it sat preening on the rocks.
I must say though, i became distracted by the many thousands of waders that were present out on the mudflats! Being bad at estimating numbers i generally underestimate, so 100 Oystercatcher, 50 Grey Plover, 1000 Golden Plover, 1000 Knot, 1000 Dunlin, 300 Redshank, 40 Bar-Tailed Godwit and single figure numbers of Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Black-Tailed Godwit represent absolute minimums among a decent number of Lapwings!
Despite the IVORY GULL being stubborn, the crowd refused to leave, and once everyone had passed the threshold of freezing (like the point when you would be seriously be considering a trip to the hospital for treatment of Hypothermia or missing body parts!) most took shelter behind the buildings.
It took a long time, but when it did everything came clear, and the IVORY GULL flew towards us, and the crowd fell silent. The bird just seemed to hang in the air above us for an age, seemingly in no rush to do anything. It teased us to a few low flypasts, but refused to land until the 4th circuit.
But when it did, it was straight onto a nice piece of rotting Mackerel.
After around 10 minutes feeding, and not doubt stinking of rotting fish, the Ivory Gull decided to reinstate its sexy status, and after a good drink, Off it flew back out to preen and wash on the Estuary.
(Nearly done now folks, stick with it a little longer)
I dropped into Eyemore in an attempt to find a rare Worcestershire Crossbill, which failed quite miserably, with not even a Common Crossbill seen. So it was down onto Trimpley, where 12 Mandarin, 8 Goosander, 8 Tufted Duck and a Peregrine flew over.
Despite my failure the previous day, i quickly found the 3 TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL'S around Postemplain, which were calling occasionally and were seen in flight, but proving very elusive!
The Common Crossbills in the area though were showing well!
The last day of the year was taken up with a twitch for the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll on the other side of Stourport. Sadly, i arrived about 30 Minutes to late, and following a 6 hour search i didn't see it. 5 MEALY REDPOLL were nice compensation, particularly a strikingly pale bird! Around 50 Lesser Redpoll were around, and a Yellowhammer and a Brambling were also seen.
And that was it folks! The end of 2013!
Next post will be my summary of 2013, so it will be a few days before it will be completed!