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?
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.
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.