Friday, 23 January 2015


The Safari had a day off yesterday to recover from the exertions at the gig and the past our normal bed-time late home.
We used it to do some birding. Well why not, better out than in and although it was a cold day there wasn't any wind to make life uncomfortable.
Our first stop was down in to the estuary where the midday high tide - a real whopper - would flood the newly developing salt march and drive out anything lurking within. We haven't been to this part of the coast for a while and were surprised to see how much the salt marsh had grown, it's still only a thin strip along the beach but must be at least quarter of a mile long if not more - gonna be an impressive additional piece of habitat as it develops in years to come.
We'd asked AH for her local knowledge and she suggested we got into position about an hour before the top of the tide, which due to 'speed of the wind' old gimmer traffic we only just made,  already the water was lapping the outermost clumps of vegetation. There were about 1000 Oystercatchers shuffling landwards as the water rose. Curlews were numerous too along with the odd Redshank. In the distance to our right a Little Egret stalked around. A flock of about 30 Grey Plovers flew upstream looking for somewhere dry to roost while others in the distance wailed their plaintive call through the hazy mist...a really haunting sound.
The water continued to creep shorewards and doing so started to flush the first of the hidden Snipe out. A few Reed Buntings and a couple of Meadow Pipits appeared too. Most of the Snipe towered up and a way but a few of them pitched down in the long vegetation of the dunes, a risky move seeing it was a doggy hell, mutts were everywhere.
Behind us a movement caught our peripheral vision and turning round we saw a flock of Greenfinches laying into the last remaining hips on a Rosa rugosa thicket.
Overhead a Peregrine whorled around trying unsuccessfully to spook the waders on the ground; ground? They we rapidly running out of that commodity and were continually shuffling around to find the shallowest patches before the water became too deep and they were forced to fly off.
Eventually almost all the waders had left and we waited for the first of the Jack Snipe to lift out of the flooded marsh. It didn't take long before the first one did and then another and another, eventually there were five and a total of 11 Snipe. A large flock of Linnets flew along the strandline in front of yet more mutts and we thought we heard a Twite or two in with them but were unable to confirm as they turned and flew back over the heads of the oncoming mutts and landed out of sight. It was then that a flock of Knot (96) went past bucking the trend by heading out to sea. A Water Rail flew out of the now very wet marsh, we saw another run out and a third swim out. Over the river a few good sized flocks of Bar Tailed Godwits (97) flew upstream.
Another Jack Snipe came out of the marsh and flew over our head but the last birds out were two Robins - what were they doing in there? So after not seeing a single Jack Snipe last year we saw six here and one on our visit to RSPB Leighton Moss at the very start of the year.
There was another bird in there that we thought might have been another Jack Snipe but in closer inspection turned into a half submerged Water Rail that was clinging to a piece of twiggy driftwood determined not to leave the safely of the cover, it looked like it was going to need a snorkel at times being over half submerged with only the top of its back and head above the gently lapping waves. Fun though it was that Water Rail was going to cost us dear, not that we knew that then.
From the coast we headed to the nature reserve driving past the Great Grey Shrike site on the way where a birder was giving something unseen from the driver's seat a good binning; we ddin't stop.
At the nature reserve we parked up and scurried round to the viewing platform without stopping to look at anything on the way except that we noted much of this end of the mere was frozen.
On the way a couple of birders were leaving by the west gate as we passed and we asked them if they'd seen anything, they had - not long since they'd been watching the Firecrest - dohh we'd probably have a couple of hours wait for it to come round on its circuit again.
Wait we did and while we waited we enjoyed the antics of three Robins charging about the 'woodland' floor.

We pretended to be a Wild Boar and kicked some of the moss aside to see if they'd come to investigate the turned earth - they did!
And found previously hidden morsels, including a rather large caterpillar
They were quite confining; even landing on CR's tripod.
A Dunnock hopped about with the Robins from time to time but above we saw a movement which was more 'interesting'. 'Only' a Goldcrest.

Not the easiest things to get pics of as they seem to stay in the shade and never keep still.
Another turned up but it still wasn't the one we wanted.
A typical 'on the move' sighting
Three hours we gave it, others came and went but we stuck it out until our fingers were that cold we couldn't stand it any longer and we decided to call it a day. We hadn't got far when we bumped into a young couple who asked if we knew where the Firecrest could be found. They were new to birding and didn't know about the Long Eared Owls so we took them round for a look. We couldn't find it/them for them. Next it was back to the Firecrest where they were very patient and gave it an hour. We didn't realise how new they really were until they told us the Long Tailed Tits we just saw flitting round the trees with a Blue Tit and a Great Tit but not a Firecrest (it has been seen with Long Tailed Tits on a couple of occasions) were a Lifer! Nothing wrong with that, we can remember like it was yesterday when we saw them for the first time, back at Leighton Moss even before that new fangled pop group Queen had got together.
After the fourth hour everyone was getting pretty cold as the sun went down so this time we did say our farewells and headed back to Base Camp Firecrestless.
The day hadn't panned out as we had hoped, a quick Firecrest followed by a good look for the Dusky Warbler but hey ho you can't have it all and we did make some new friends so certainly a good day in the field.
Then we had a txt from our Extreme Photographer saying he's been having a bit of a Starling problem.
It keeps giving him the run around.
Where to next? It's the weekend again and no doubt we'll be out somewhere, might have the wellies on as there is some pond clearing work to get stuck into on Sunday, we'll probably just be standing and pointing but it'll be fun and you never know what the crew will find.
In the meantime let us know who's eluding who in your outback

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