Thursday, 28 January 2016

May 2015- Hudwit!

May 2015
One good  aspect of writing something in hindsight is the fact that it takes somewhat of a greater context. And within the context of the entire year, one of the most stressful birds for me turned out to be the Hudsonian Godwit.  Having turned down a lift on the birds first day (at the end of April), it looked like I had missed my chance when it then disappeared.
I don't usually get annoyed about missing birds, and stress isn't something I usually feel when thinking about them, but with something as striking (and incredibly rare as a Hudsonian Godwit!) something was different about this one.
Fast forward a couple of days.... It was back!!
However with impending university deadlines it would have been stupid for me to 'Just go for it', and another lift was turned down.
It disappears again... Then reappears.. Another lift offer... Again, circumstances stopped the journey south..
But then, with the weekend approaching, and me having pulled metaphorical chunks out of my hair, it was finally time to head down. As we sped south on the early morning of the 2nd, news emerged it was still there! Joy!
However, one of the better things about this bird was the fact of where it was. Present within the Avalon Marshes at the superb Shapwick Heath, you know you are in for some good birding, and that proved incredibly true, with just stepping from the car revealing flypasts of both Great Egret and Bittern. Standard fare here nowadays!

The 'Hudwit' hadn't shown since the original sighting, but a stirring among the Godwit flock below the near bank (out of view) sent the flock into the air, to shouts of 'there it is'.

A second or two later, the flock alighted at the very back of the flash, and among it, the yank Godwit that had caused me so much pain, anguish and stress over the course of the last 7 days. It stayed on view for the remainder of the visit, allowing for close study of this superb looking bird.
However, it was clear that it was all about those underwings, and after tantalising for what seemed like an age, it finally raised its wings, to an audible gasp for the large crowd of onlookers.

A great supporting cast was noted, Great Egrets, Bitterns, Garganey, Hobbys, Marsh Harriers and a singing Grasshopper Warbler. Superb

A rather ambitious plan to twitch a trip of Dotterel fell through while driving back north, so we decided to drop into Slimbridge, where a Little Gull was flitting around the pools and a couple of GCP Cranes were giving stonking views.

Mid month (15th) a plan was hatched to spend the day in Norfolk, always a superb way to spend any time in May, and our usual route was followed. Making our way up from the Brecks up onto the North coast. Our first stop proved good with the expected Stone Curlew and Spotted Flycatcher, but also 3 Firecrests, which gave great views. Not a bird I had seen at this site before so rather unexpected!

The previous year, we stumbled upon a small quarry which held a pair of Turtle Doves, and while driving past again we decided to drop in. And to my amazement, within a few minutes a Turtle Dove started purring! Great, but brief views followed as the birds moved in and out of the gorse. And to think we only stopped to look for Grey Partridge!

Choesley Barns is a regular site for Dotterel in spring, and a large flock had developed and refused to carry on with their migration. With the heat building it made for hard scanning, but with a bit of perseverance, at least 19 were counted in the distance. Certainly not the best views I have had of the species, but a welcomed bird to see at any time.
We had planned to meet up with Gary P, the Biking Birder to have a catch up and we spent the rest of the day birding the site.
Finding the 2 Temminck's Stints were the main priority, and these were located fairly quickly once in the Parrinder hide. Distant, heat haze, not good. 
Luckily, they were showing significantly better later in the day!

Some great birding was had working our way through the masses of expected birds, and it was particularly satisfying to find this ringed Sanderling on the Beach. Apparently ringed in Ghana, Africa!!

A wide array of wader species were present, and a magical encounter with a pair of cooperatively hunting Peregrines culminated in a Redshank using us as a screen to prevent it being caught. The Peregrines weren't too happy and spent a while circling around us at very close range. It was great to watch a variety of Tern species over the sea and the pools, with a number of Littles looking stunning in the sun. Joining them were 4 Little Gulls. The flock of Red-crested Pochard were also giving good views.

Essay hand in date on the 18th and news emerges of a Great Reed Warbler present in Sandwell Valley. A huge shock and another 'I need to get there moment'. Arrived later in the afternoon to hear the bird loudly signing away on the island. I spent a good while trying to get decent views of the bird, with it mostly being fleeting glimpses, however a few rather nice views were had in the end. A 1st for West Midlands county.

The last week of the month 23rd-30th was spent on a family holiday in Pembrokeshire. Little bits of birding here and there revealed a variety of Coastal species, however the highlight of the trip was making it over to Skomer Island again, and admiring the large number of seabirds present, as well as some amazingly confiding Chough!

Back on the mainland, visits were made to Marloes Mere (which was fairly quiet) and the Gann. The tide was at the right stage and a good wader flock was present, with an array of Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone and Dunlin all giving great views as they fed only a matter of 20ft away.

The last day of month saw me again chasing a Black Tern. Another bird had been found at Upton Warren that morning so, having dipped the last couple, a rush was made to get over there, and very glad we did. A stonking summer plumaged bird giving superb views as it lapped the sailing pool!