The Safari went on a bit of a roadtrip on Sunday, somewhere we've not been for about 17 or more years. We'd been invited to join the high tide watch at the famous RSPB reserve by young volunteer FW. He's an old hand at this venue but still only turned 13 earlier in the week. The journey started well as we loaded the car for the day but as soon as the doors were shut the rain started and the wind picked up, sleety rain at that.
Before setting off we'd read a few Twitter feeds and a blog or two and noticed the last line of this one and we had a strange inkling that he might have come all the way up this way and it's a long way from his home in the East Midlands, double the distance we'd traveled and we'd traveled through some horrid snow showers to get here. We pulled round the corner onto the Promenade, saw the pavilion folk were watching from and there, as if by magic, he was...spooky!
We joined our long-standing birding chums of many years and also briefly met LMcR of AFON and lots of other folk who's photos and commentary we enjoy on Twitter - very nice to meet you all at last, we're sure our paths will cross again fairly soon.
On arrival we learned we'd just missed a Great White Egret but were hopeful as it hadn't gone far just in to a creek out of sight.
Being birthday time a rather delicious cake appeared and plenty for everyone - thanks H - yummo
|Looks like we've done something horrible to IH in the background|
The tide was still well out and after meeting and greeting we decided to get out of the cold and wet and get some lunch in the pub, rashly or generously we left our scope in the hands of the assembling crowd - good job they're an honest bunch. Young HW joined us and we kept an eye on the group stood out in the elements through the window making sure they weren't all staring intently at something we were missing. They weren't they were just stood round chatting.
All of a sudden through a different window we saw a load of Lapwings and Starlings lift and swirl round. Little H dashed to the window and shouted "it's a Merlin!" Great ID skills from the young 10 year old!
After lunch we rejoined the others and saw that the tide was now well risen. A pair of Red Breasted Mergansers were fishing in the pool in front of us. There were a few Little Egrets around but still no sign of the Great White Egret, never mind there was plenty of time for it to be flushed out of its creek by the rising waters.
We were asked to cast an opinion on a raptor sat way out on a piece of driftwood. It was small and pale so a Merlin was the verdict, was it the one H had seen earlier?
A shout of "Hen Harrier" went up from MA and looking to our right a 'ring-tail' (113) was coming towards us out on the water's edge. It wasn't long before a second appeared; excellent! We've not seen one for a couple of years and then two in a matter of minutes. This one was closer as the tide was now advancing very rapidly. We got super views but didn't take any pics, too excited just watching them we're afraid.
There was a flurry of activity as the water reached the last dry bits of marsh forcing waders and ducks to find the driest 'heights'. There were Teal, Wigeon, Shelducks, Mallards, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Curlews and more Little Egrets all looking for somewhere dry to roost. Even a couple of Cormorants flew out of the creeks and out into the estuary.
Both we and MA picked up a distant fast low raptor at the same time which we lost behind someone's head but must have landed somewhere out there;we both thought Peregrine but no-one else got on it.
The tide was being pushed out of the river by the strong wind today and so took longer to reach the wall so we missed the small mammals escaping the flood. Many would have been eaten or drowned on the previous couple of days higher tides anyway. Some of our party saw a couple of large Brown Rats but that was about it. There was still no sign of the Great White Egret - so a bad dip.
With a recent birthday to celebrate at Ma n Da's we had to leave but a minor detour to another site where a Laughing Gull has been hanging round for a couple of weeks or so.
The tide was still high so the chances were it would be on its favoured spot on the pontoon in the marine lake with the roosting waders. We were lucky to get a very close car park space as it was petty busy down there. Two lads were already there sheltering under the canopy of the lakeside shops looking at the pontoon - a good sign. Or not so good as it turned out, they'd been braving the driving sleet for half an hour or more and not seen it.
We looked through the assembled waders, mostly Redshanks and Turnstones with a few Dunlins and Purple Sandpipers there too - no sign of our American friend though; dohhhh not another dip? We gave the gulls on the on the water a look, it wasn't with them. Then a movement on the pontoon caught our eye, scanning back there it was plain as day, musta flown in from the sea - Laughing Gull (114).
With the fierce weather conditions we didn't bother with the nearby Snow Buntings, musta been bad as we still need them in our Year List Challenge with Monika. Just hope we get them later in the year or we don't draw or get beaten by one species!
Birthday duties done it was straight back to Base Camp along the dark wet motorways. As we approached our exit junction a Barn Owl ghosted along the rough grass too our left - A good end to a great day.
Where to next? Back on familiar Patch 2 territory tomorrow provided the wind doesn't throw the sea over the wall.In the meantime let us know who's gliding gracefully over the marsh in your outback.