Thursday, 15 October 2009

Still got it!

The safari was in a quandary! Out on Patch 1 last night there were many fewer Redwings going over than the previous but later on during a walk along the promenade to see the Illuminations there seemed to be more than earlier and a small number of Blackbirds in the mix too. But it was very mild and likely to be misty in the morning. A morning which offered the opportunity of a twitch to see the local Long Billed Dowagers. Due to a late evening meeting today we had the morning to zoot off somewhere before hitting the desk at lunchtime – after a Patch 2 shuffy of course. Should we go or not. Out with Frank on a disappointing Patch 1 it was indeed quite misty early doors. It would be at least an hour’s drive through the stop-start commuter traffic to the Dowitchers (how many are there exactly: 2 here, 2 there, 2 somewhere else – just 2 very mobile, or more than 2? Someone enlighten me please). No, the safari couldn’t be bothered to get this tick. Always tempting to start twitching again…but then we think of all those thousands of miles travelled in the past and the price of fuel, even (comparatively) cheap biodiesel, and the mpg of the Land Rover…taps calculator…HOW MUCH???!!! No chance…stay local!
Only one thing for it, the Mere. The mist might have grounded a few migrants and there is always the chance of a bit of vis; we once had over 3000 Meadow Pipits on a misty morning, plus other good stuff including a Merlin if memory serves me correctly. So of the safari set off to blaze a two mile trail through the rush hour traffic with thoughts of Dusky-stroke-Radde’s in mind…dream on! As an aside I dipped a Dusky Warbler at Flamborough years ago because I wouldn’t let myself cross a fence with the other twitchers. It was buzzing around at the famed South Landing but being a warden at one site and telling people off daily for jumping the fences I couldn’t really do it myself could I…or should I?
Never mind we might find one this morning. Arriving on site the mist had cleared somewhat and visibility wasn’t too bad, but there was a notable absence of calls from overhead migrants. We settled down on the bench close to where the Cetti’s Warbler had recently been reported from and started ‘chitting’. Passers-by gave us a wide berth obviously thinking we weren’t quite right in the head. Nothing stirred, so after a few minutes we moved on. The reedbeds are looking good and all that work earlier in the year has got to be bob-on for a Bittern or two,

and a sack full of Bearded Tits please. If JW says they are about to erupt who are we mere mortals to contradict him. Anyone watching Autumnwatch last week will have heard Bearded Tits referred to as Moustached Babblers…will someone please grass up the researcher who has been to one of my lectures and stolen my phrase wot I have been using for years. It’s the last slide of my spiel. Slides…you remember them…don’t you?
No Bitterns just this Heron sat atop a Hawthorn bush - why?

Enough of the waffle…Water Rails were vocal at various locations, with at least six being heard squealing from the depths of the reeds. Moving round into the scrub you can see why its still hard to spot the Long Eared Owls, too much bloody Bindweed…obviously far too few Ghost Plume Moths by about a zillion.Didn’t bother to bother the owls we’ll leave them until after the leaves drop and seeing them will be so much easier.
In front of the Container Hide a movement caught the eye and a few short ‘ticks’ were heard. A bit of ‘pishing’ and ‘chitting’ brought a Wren out into the open and into range of the lens. A bit more pishing and chitting had him disappear back into the reeds again. Still no sign of the Cetti’s…or any Dusky/Radde’s for that matter.
There were fewer thrushes than expected. A small number of grounded Redwings, very flighty and easily disturbed and even fewer Blackbirds which are normally numerous on the reserve. There’s that many windfall apples the place stinks like a cider factory. Robins, however, ticked out of every bush. We would have liked to have got on to a few to check em out for greyness, ie foreigners but to no avail they were all staying deep in cover bar the ‘normal’ on at the Feeding Station.
A short diversion off piste to look for (= flush = naughty in light of comments above) Woodcock was fruitless, or at least there were no Woodcock to be seen; plenty of illegal fruit pickers trails through the scrub where they have been in stealing all the reserve’s winter food supply…swines that they are – GO TO THE SUPERMARKET you thieving numpties! We did trip over a clump of Greater Birds Foot Trefoil in flower showing its ‘Eggs and Bacon’ country name off to a tee. Been on site over an hour by now an still no vis going on! Had a blimp in the Feeding Station but nothing over exciting. Got an hour left before having to go to work so a thorough check off the gulls was in order, after all there was a Mediterranean Gull that we missed last time we were here.
First vantage point, near where our old cabin (lol) was, provides a great view down the mere and over the area the larger gulls normally use – why do think we put it there? So a stop at that point is obligatory and produced the goods! During a scan of the gulls a sharp ‘chit’ was heard…I like it!...moving closer to the reedbed it came again and with a little rattle too…we like it even more! So I whistled my poor imitation of a Cetti’s song as loud as I could…well it worked a treat in Sardinia last month so it had to be worth a try…and guess what…yep you got it - IT WORKED…a bit of subsong came straight back at me from out of the reed – Gotcha! So standing there flushed with success and dry mouthed from far too much whistling we had another scan through the gulls and came up trumps with an eclipse male Garganey! You might not believe the photo - enlarge for a giggle at my skills, or lack of digiscope equipment.Now we’re cooking on gas!!! Bring on the Slaty Backed Gull…well good things come in threes don’t they? No such luck, all gulls grilled revealed nowt special. Apart from one that wanted the Barn Owl to wake up and come out to play. Doesn’t he know it’s past owley’s bed time? The Shovelers are starting to colour up but very lively and hard to get one with its head out of the water.
Down at the Fylde Bird Club hide the Alder Buckthorns we planted some years back have a super crop of berries. They were planted to attract Brimstone butterflies as we had the tiniest of flurries of sightings back then. Since we planted them I don’t think there’s been a single record. Bumped into an old mate who I’ve not seen for yonks and while we were chatting I noticed one of the Coots had a ring…could I get on it with the camera? No chance; until someone appeared with a bag of bread for the ducks. I asked them to throw some towards it but unfortunately they threw a big lump straight at it which it got, couldn’t swallow and dashed off into the water to wet it. So photo opportunity lost. The ring says ‘Inform’…well we knew that, it was the numbers we wanted.
Skylarks started to trickle past and by the time it was time to leave they were coming through in some numbers, probably had about 30 altogether.
Had a bit of fun with the resident Mute Swans! When we first got to site there was a flock of 9 swans sat out in the middle of the mere, it would have been nice if the were Whooper Swans but they weren’t.
Time was up and we had to leave but would have dearly loved to stay all day and nailed the Radde’s/Dusky - hahahahaha.
On the way back to Base Camp we took the lanes and were disappointed to see that the farmers/highways department had trimmed all the hedges down to the wood destroying all the cover and berries. Surely in this 'enlightened' day and age they should know better - no wonder so many species are suffering.

Patch 2 for a few minutes before hitting the ‘puter – no sign of anything dodgy in the Grebe line, no sign of anything actually apart from a few scattered flocklets of Common Scoters.

Where to next? Those Dowitchers really do need ticking off. Saturday is out, but doing something at work that may be of interest to you…or not as the case may be.
In the meantime let us know what you’ve been seeing in your favourite bit of your outback.

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