So, with my coursework having been completed within the last hour, and with only the two exams worth of revision to go, I think it is about time I should start writing again...
So, back to October we go.
Having had such a good time on the last RSPB fieldtrip, it perhaps wasn't too hard of a decision to join them again for their trip over to Titchwell RSPB. Who would complain at that.
On the way over as we drove past Guyhirn, I managed to pick up 2 of the Cranes that had been resident in the area for some time. Another birder beside me saw a further 8 standing in the field, however they were distant and the views weren't great from the moving coach.
Arriving at Titchwell I did exactly as I was hoping to do, and walked straight out to the beach to do some seawatching, and I was greeted with the rather joyous sight of a large numbers of others with the same idea. If a Skua went past today I was going to see it!
Immediately obvious was the large number of Gulls, and among them were a single adult Mediterranean and 8 Kittiwakes. A flock of Common Scoter were bobbing about on the troughs but the first highlight came as I saw a lone Scoter flying in from the east. Head on initially, it moved parallel to the beach revealing bring white secondarys. I was soon shouting a drake Velvet Scoter was going past! Luckily, there were a number of boats of varying colours offshore, so getting the crowd (particularly the ones sitting adjacent to me!) onto the bird was straightforward.
Next up was another self find. A small Grebe popped up in the breakers close inshore to the beach further west than the viewpoint, but being strikingly black and white It was obviously one of the 'rarer' small Grebes. Considering I have little field experience with 'Slav', it was immediately obvious as a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe due to structure. The entire crowd got onto the bird and it continued to show for much of the afternoon and made for the best bird of the day.
Among the regulars (Gannet, Red-Throated Diver, GC Grebe, and both Guillemot and Razorbill) we also picked out a female Red-breasted Merganser on the water fairly close in, and a further 4 flew past, going west.
With no Skuas I moved back onto the reserve for the Gull roost. The usual assembley of waders was present, and 6 Marsh Harriers were buzzing the reedbed. It was here I also caught up with an old friend, as the same female Stonechat that got me onto the Penduline Tit on my last visit was feeding in the same area of reedmace. Sadly, no Penduline today though. Scrutiny of the increasing gull flock produced 2 Yellow-legged Gulls before I had to head back to the coach.
I had visited Steart Marshes WWT just a week previously in the hope of catching up with the juvenile Pallid Harrier, having dipped, we returned on the first day of November, but again our luck was out. A good showing of Raptors (Buzzard, 1 Sprawk, 7 Kestrel, 3 Peregrine) was highlighted by 2 Merlin, including a great view of a female as we arrived, which barrelled fairly low over our heads.
With the bird having not shown again, we moved around the Huntspill Sluice. As we neared Bridgewater we heard the unthinkable.. The Pallid had just shown again (Insert relevant word of choice). Being stuck in traffic we couldn't go anywhere and carried on in the hope it would be viewable from the opposite side of the Parrett River. It wasn't, and we dipped it again. At least 1 female Red-breasted Merganser was feeding in the shallows, which gave slight compensation for the dip. It was from here while scanning for a ochre coloured bird of prey a superb sight of 3 Merlin chasing each other took place low over the saltmarsh. A good count of Avocets were also viewable form here, with 296 being visible among the huge swirling flocks of other estuarine waders.
Any other day without having dipped a Pallid Harrier and this would have been a good day!
That annoyance from dipping was relieved somewhat where a standard patch thrash led to the chance discovery of a female BLACK REDSTART! Standing scanning the Lapwings and Gulls within the now flooded quarry, I neglected to look on the small patch of ground adjacent to the hedgeline behind me. Having counted the Lapwing (32) and scanned through the Gulls to little avail, I turned around to see a bird flick up onto the top of a hawthorn in the hedgeline.
Getting my bins onto the bird which was only around 50ft away I was slightly perplexed to begin. It was head on, and just a slightly silhouetted greyish brown thing. There just wasn't any marks in this view, but it soon moved slightly, and I saw the quivering red tail!
I span to get my scope on it, aimed it at the bird, and just as I got it into focus it flew up, across the quarry, hesitantly at first, but it kept going.... And going..... And going. I kept on it until it was nothing more than a speck, when it suddenly dived down in the vicinity of Burlish Top. I spent the next 3 hours plodding around Burlish, Burlish Top, Moult Plesent etc, but I failed to refind this incredibly brief first for the patch.
Presumably this was the bird which then was found on the other side of the golf course a week or so after on the WFC Building.
A Uni fieldtrip led us across Wales to Aberystwyth, and we stopped at a number of sites on the way over. One of these was the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Red Kite feeding Centre, where we had excellent views of around 200 Kites. A female Goosander on the pool was also a nice surprise.
Moving onto Aberystwyth for the Starling roost, we stood near the pier and watched the aggregation grow, which despite not being the biggest Starling roost I have ever seen was still fairly spectacular.
As you would expect though, as we stood, I began to notice large numbers of Gulls roosting offshore, and being the fanatic I am, I just had to go through them. My efforts were rewarded when I picked up an adult Mediterranean Gull fly in from the south and drop onto the water in front of us. Nice!
The weather the next day was little short of vile, heavy rain and strong winds. A Rock Pipit pottered along the beach, and I had a flight view of what was probably one of the 5 Black Redstarts in the area as it flicked off the old college building and onto the castle.