Friday, 20 November 2015

We're seriously losing our touch

The Safari was once again going a bit stir crazy stuck indoors watching the rain hammer down. Once again the feeders were devoid of bird activity as was the rest of the garden, a cold snap is needed to bring all our feathered friends back into the garden. After lunch the rain stopped and we had to get out for some fresh air and wild time. It was nowhere near as windy as forecast so instead of going to the cliffs to watch the tide up again we went for a gentle potter round the nature reserve. The was some wind, although nothing like the predicted gale. The tree-tops whooshed, the reedbeds swished and in sheltered places there was the clinketing sound of dry leaves tumbling through the twigs and branches to the ground. Nothing else sounds quite like falling leaves - have a listen next time you're out.
We made our way to the viewing platform (Teal View) ever hopeful the Bittern might fly past, or better still be stood at the reed edge around the pool in front of us fishing. Needless to say it didn't and it wasn't. On the walk down a Mistle Thrush flew overhead and we heard a couple of Blackbirds clucking away as they fed on the windfall Apples, certainly seemed like a bit of Blackbird influx. Out on the water the waterfowl were still tucked up in the reeds along the far bank, Mallard, Wigeon, a few Teal and a couple of Shovelers were on view, many more were undoubtedly secreted out of sight deeper in the reeds. A couple of dozen Coot and a handful of Tufted Ducks were braver and feeding right out in the open water as was a Great Crested Grebe, not seen one here for a good while, not since the end of the breeding season.
There were also a fair number of gulls to look at. If our regularly returning Iceland Gull is going to show this season it can't be far away so it was worth a look even if it was unlikely to appear on the south westerlies of recent days. Most were Black Headed Gulls and although we were looking against the light viewing conditions weren't too bad and we gave the flock a good going over several  times without finding anything out of the ordinary.
With the possibilities exhausted and nothing out of the ordinary seen we moved on. A few minutes later we got a call from MMCG asking if we'd seen the Mediterranean Gull, of course we hadn't - what's going on????? We really are seriously losing our touch! We used to be able to sniff these out at least a mile away, missing one in a flock of less than 200 Black Headed Gulls is a heinous oversight, more than that it's almost a crime. Back we went for a 'proper' look; it took more minutes than we care to admit to find it.
Can you see it?
It drifted around in the flock and eventually gave us some better views - they are one of the best birds in the book, even in their winter garb.
Best bird of the day now seen we continued our circuit seeing nothing in the scrub apart from a couple more Blackbirds, deffo an bit  of an influx and hearing a Goldcrest. The almost hurricane force winds haven't blown all the fruits and berries off the trees and shrubs which is good as many species of birds prefer to feed up in relative the safety of the canopy rather than on windfall fruit on the ground if they can. The bright red berries of Guelder Rose are always cited as being great for wildlife and as such the bush is regularly planted in landscape schemes, not sure if we've ever seen anything eat them though there's still plenty on one one particular bush we'll keep an eye on over the coming months and see what happens. Maybe its nocturnal mice that eat them rather than diurnal birds???
Passing the time of day and comparing recent sightings with TS we both heard a Water Rail, the first since the water levels began to rise. He went on his way and we had a look at the rough grassland below the embankment thinking there be might be hungry Short Eared Owl out hunting after the very windy night and very wet morning - there wasn't! There was a nice flock of 17 Fieldfares that came in from the fields over our heads and landed in the scrub to take advantage of a quick refuel on the Apples.
Returning the way we'd come we had a quick look from Heron Hide and saw a Heron on the far side. Still no Bitterns flying up and down the reedbeds to our left and right nor opposite though. The Fieldfares were still in the scrub nearby their russet and grey tones a perfect combination for an autumn afternoon. On we went and got caught in a stinging squall hastily trying to reach the next hide for some shelter but it was over before we got there, TS had also sought refuge there and was coming out saying he'd just seen a female Goldeneye but it had disappeared out of sight. Back down on Teal View he soon picked it up close to the reeds, the first we've seen this season. he went on his way and we stayed to wait for, yes you've guessed it, the invisible Bittern.
Small flocks of Starlings came towards us low over the water but went straight through to the pier roost rather than stopping to murmurate here, LR had earlier told us he'd seen about 1500 leave the reedbed roost at first light this morning. It was watching one of those flocks we spotted there were now two female Goldeneyes.
A Sparrowhawk sped across the top of the reeds probably hoping to surprise a Snipe then veered off into the scrub sending the Fieldfares chattering noisily in all directions.
We then got a txt from CR saying he was going down to the pier to watch the Starlings again but we declined the offer to join him - we were still waiting for that sodding Bittern!!! It was almost worth hanging around as there were stacks of gulls coming in for a pre-roost bathe, almost all were Black Headed Gulls, probably well over 99%. After their ablutions they leave SW over the trees to their roost on the sand flats in the estuary. We watched them go in case of another Mediterranean Gull but got on what looked rather like a second winter Ring Billed Gull instead. Sadly unclaimable but did show the following features, pale mantle about same as BHG with hardly discernible white trailing edge, the feature which made us look harder at it, a well marked head, no mirror visible in the outer primaries, a few black flecks in the outer secondaries of one wing only, could have been both but for angle, light conditions and shortness of view, broken black tail band. It could easily have been 'just' a Common Gull but that paleness of the mantle just wasn't 'right'. One to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks.
So another  couple of hours of very enjoyable 'wildtime' came to an end as the light faded and another shower rattled in on the increasing wind.
But maybe we should have taken up CR's offer - here's his video of the proceedings.

Where to next? It's a dilemma now, it's very windy but it's low tide will Chat Alley be worth a look, do we try the nature reserve again and hope for the dodgy gull, or try somewhere completely different - ohh decisions decisions. 
in the meantime let us know who's not coming out to play in your outback.

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