Monday, 1 September 2014

A tern for the better

The Safari has to inform you that the moth trap did get soggy, we were woken by really heavy rain rattling on the bedroom windows at about 05.00 and decided to get up early and bring it in but as soon as we got up it stopped so back to bed until Frank woke up it was. No repeat of the Hawthorn Shield Bug magnet act from him this morning. And then it was time to check the soggy trap. Fortunately we had a Wasp warning as there was one sat torpid on the outside of the box – time to open up cautiously. There were no more inside, which was a relief. In fact there wasn’t much inside at all, a few of the expected Large Yellow Underwings, a Lesser Yellow Underwing, a Setaceous Hebrew Character and a very worn Codling Moth was the sum total of trap’s contents.
Later we met up with BD at the nature reserve, we were well late for the bird club’s reed cutting day. We can only ‘supervise’ but BD donned the waders and grabbed a slasher to clear the view in front of the hide so when he gets his mint Water Rail, Cetti's Warbler and Bittern pics this winter he’ll have the extra satisfaction of knowing he helped make the shot possible.
With all the work going on there wasn’t much about but a Cetti’s Warbler was reported as singing back at the strimmers! 
Over on the island some folk were hard at it, others or at least one other was slacking.
He claims he'd done loads earlier...we're not convinced, that NGB hoody looks far to clean.
If anyone fancies a go at this sort of thing, not necessarily up to your neck in the water, there'll be lots of opportunities coming up soon at the nature reserve.
A couple of Shovelers dropped in once the noise had died down at lunchtime. The cut area in front of the hide attracted several Common Darters including a pair in tandem laying eggs while another male watched waiting to get in on the action, Migrant Hawkers were whizzing back and forth too and we think we had a brief fly-past from an Emperor.
The afternoon was spent at a localish site we rarely visit but has had a breeding pair of Little Ringed Plovers which BD hasn’t seen before. It’s a cracking site a little inland that pulls in more than its fair share of scarcities. Access is restricted to viewing from a distance and a scope is essential. 
It was pretty quite but we soon had the target plovers in view and a look from the field had BD getting a few pics with his mega lens. Buzzards soared and called overhead and the Blackberries in the hedgerow were tasty, a Goldcrest called from somewhere in the hedge too. Swallows twittered cheerily over the fields as the sun came out, it was a very pleasant and peaceful afternoon in the countryside. A few Little Grebes graced the water and a search of one of the nearer pools almost hidden by ‘dead’ ground revealed a Common Sandpiper, how we’d rather it had been a Green Sandpiper, a species very rapidly becoming BD’s bogey bird!
The arrival of a flock of sheep disturbed a nice little flock of wagtails but all the ones we saw were Pieds, no Whites or Yellows were mixed in with them. Beyond them a pair of Stock Doves dropped on to a puddle for a quick drink.
As we turned to leave a movement in the hedge caught BD’s eye and he stopped to see what it was, a small ‘browny’ bird was all he got on it. Anyway, here at this time of year it could have been something a little out of the ordinary so we turned back to look for it and almost immediately a Kingfisher shot over the gate where we’d been stood (coulda had our eye out!!!) banked past us and flew a good way down the canal. We would have totally missed it if it wasn’t for the mystery bird, which we never did see again.
From there we made our way back to the coast to the northern estuary where several Mediterranean Gulls have been seen recently, another species BD hasn’t (knowingly) come across yet. The tide was well up and there was a lot of boat activity on the river. Only a small patch of mud was exposed and this held a few gulls, all the ‘wrong’ species, several Lapwings and a few Golden Plovers. In a nearby lesser creek was a Common Sandpiper
We had a wonder up to the yacht club to see if there were any gulls roosting on the far side of the river we couldn’t see from where we were stood, nothing there either, just a few ‘Large White Headed Gulls’ loafing on the water way off in the distance down stream. A Little Egret flew at height over the village on the far bank but there was little else to keep us interested. So back to our original view point it was. By now a second Common Sandpiper had turned up in the creek and more mud in the distance was exposed by the dropping tide giving very shimmery views of more Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Redshanks. A juvenile Shelduck was there too and a small flock was seen to wheel round, we followed the larger bird, a Black Tailed Godwit but BD stuck with the other three much smaller birds which landed on the edge of the mud, Dunlins.
The walk back to the Land Rover had BD inspecting a bank pock marked with mining bee holes and sampling the Sloes on the Blackthorn bushes.
Well we didn’t see all we had hoped to but on a sunny summer’s afternoon does that matter, we’d seen and enjoyed loads and had a couple of surprise sightings too – what more could you ask for?
There was a bit more to come in the evening!
A couple of times during the afternoon the mobile had rung but as we were driving we couldn’t answer. Once we’d dropped BD off and got back to Base Camp we did and discovered there was a very dodgy looking warbler down on Chat Alley, tentatively IDd as an Icterine Warbler on account of it being remarkably yellow, acting a bit weird accompanied by the fact it was in an odd-ball out of habitat place – a pile of old tyres in the former boating pool. It had been there all afternoon nipping in and out of the tyre pile and doing some flycatching. Nothing for it but to ask Wifey if she had dinner under control and could we go – Yes and yes, so we did a bit of phoning around and then off we went up and over the hill.
On arrival we spotted local butterfly aficionado, DS, and wondered how he'd heard of it but it transpired he was just out for a pre-dinner meander along the prom. From the top of the cliff we son saw the mystery bird and by eck was it yellow, a warbler that looked chunky and was as bright as a Grey Wagtail sat on the wall of the boating pool- what on earth was it? We rushed down the steep path down to the boating pool/go-kart track to get a closer look. It was very active flitting about fly-catching and bobbing up and down on and off the wall but was obviously a phylloscopus warbler and sadly not a hippolais warbler . In some lights it showed very orangy-pink legs so a Willow Warbler then, but then the other birders appeared with much bigger lenses than we could ever manage and showed us pics of the very short wing projection, so deffo a Chiffchaff then. Mystery solved but we did hear it call a couple of times and it said something like tchreuu and nothing like the 'normal' hweet...what's that all about?
Here's our best effort taken after the sun had gone off the tyre pile. Looks just like a Chiffchaff should, doesn't it?
Believe us when we we say it didn't look anything like this when we saw it from afar and we've seen some other pics from PL that hint at a much yellower colouration (not the ones he's posted on his Flickr site).
Today we didn't get out early but had to wait until lunchtime and we didn't get long then. But it was productive. A flock of terns was giving a bait ball some serious hammer away to our north but fairly close inshore. Spectacular! Then we spotted on that was only half the size of the others - a real titch - bingo a Little Tern (160, P2 #67). Short but sweet!
And we got a very quick look in the rockpools only to find a somewhat hidden very small and very quick 5-Bearded Rockling - blink and you'll miss it
And then look what appeared on our FB feed from Aussie Glen only a flippin Numbat, one of the planet's rarest mammals seen from his sitting room window. Got a  pic too which is more than we did when we saw one at Maroo a couple of years ago - bet he's well chuffed and hope he doesn't mind us nicking his pic!
Don't forget you can volunteer at Maroo or join one of their excellent wildlife rehab training courses, see their blog or website for details not seen anyone on the Nature's Miracle Orphans programme using Burston Blues yet but they all should be!

Where to next? Even less likely to be able to get out tomorrow but we'll see, there's always something to see if you take a look.
In the meantime let us know who was hiding in the waving vegetation your outback.

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