Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Do you remember where you where when...

The safari has no wildlife news for today other than the Peregrine was once again on its roost ledge early morniiong and this evening. We've been too busy attempting to teach our youngsters about sustainable agriculture, food miles, healthy eating, teeth and dentition - that took almost as long to explain as the lesson. I nicked one of Monika 's pics but she did get a mention in class. Hope you don't mind M!
I've been visiting this school doing talks and walks on a variety of subjects for nearly 20 years!!! Some of the children in those first classes will have children of their own by now...a scary thought; anyone know how to stop time?
Today is the 19th anniversary of this...
I posted it a couple of weeks ago when one was suspected at the same site. No further sightings but since the ice melted there have been very few sightings of any Bitterns, American or otherwise.
The day it was found (= properly identified, as it had been suspected for a couple of weeks or so by a few birders) it flew over my head whilst I was on the embankment and into the path of the vastly experienced PJM and others from Lancaster. It promptly landed in a side ditch and was identified as an American Bittern. A select few managed to see it that evening. Remember this is well before the days of mobile phones and pagers. The following morning I went to work early. I had a red Lada estate and zoomed along the motorway, if that is the right word for a Lada, I was the slowest car on the road and all those that overtook me had some sort of birding sticker in the rear window. I got to the work car park and found it more full than a sunny August Bank Holiday. Today was going to be a busy day! It was cold at first light, snow lay on the ground, but already the embankment looked like the East Bank at Cley on a mega twitch, felt like it too in the cold. It was freezing and with hindsight we should have been selling hot pies and drinks - we'd have made a fortune!
After an interminable age, or so it seemed, the bird appeared - at 11.30 and performed quite well. At the time I estmated that almost a million pounds worth of kit was pointed at it when it emerged from its reedy hiding place.
The rush turned out to be unnecessary as the bird stayed until to mid May in the end, regularly appearing to fly to a favoured willow tree at 11.30; you could almost set your watch by it!
The supporting cast included a Cetti's Warbler, Lancashire's first, Long Eared Owls, Short Eared Owls, and 'ordinary' Bitterns. Indeed I know of several birders who went home happy having seen American Bittern when in actual fact they had seen a Eurasian Bittern, they just assumed that only one of the species was present...ohh errr.
One group of travelling birders claimed a Buzzard. It was not accepted by the locals, it would have been only the fifth since 1945! They breed 500 yards from the site now...a couple of pairs even! A Glaucous Gull put in a brief appearance, the first since the rubbish dump the reserve is 'built' on was closed. The first of the 'modern' surge of Mediterranean Gull records were made at this time too. Lots of eyes = lots of good birds. I've had a trawl through Pauline McGough's excellent Birds of Marton Mere LNR which documents all the birds on the Systematic List seen at the site from 1859 to 2001.
Is Marton Mere the only site in the UK to play host to all three Bittern species on the British list? The Fylde has had two American Bitterns, the first in December 1845...shot as was the norm in those days...what's hit is history what's missed is mystery!
So happy memories - did you see it, do you remember where you where when you first heard the news.
Where to next? Still that lifer to knock off and still a big tide on the marsh tomorrow...wonder if we'll be able to dash out.
In the meantime let us know what you were doing when the biggy landed in your outback.

1 comment:

Monika said...

No problem Dave! I'm just wondering what photo I've posted could have anything to do with food miles or dentition?

That's great that you're giving school lectures....how do the kids react to talks about sustainable agriculture? Positively, I bet!