Monday, 11 January 2016

Disaster strikes

The Safari was all over excited that LCV was driving up to take us out for two days non-stop dawn til dusk birding.
We got up about an hour before he was due to land to have some brekkie and make butties for the forthcoming adventures. Picking up our phone to catch up with the morning's news headlines we noticed we'd missed a call from him, not to worry just letting us know he was setting off, then we saw there were two txts too. Opening the first was a shock - he'd been involved in a collision on the motorway, the car in front had spun and he'd hit the central barrier trying to avoid it...fortunately the next txt said although the car was a write-off he was OK and (thankfully) totally unhurt but wasn't going to be able to make it to ours.
After a  bit of to-ing and fro-ing on the phone we eventually got out about two hours after the planned time. Right by the car a small fungus has popped up through the mulch on the flower bed.
We decided to go south and see if the Scaup and Shag that had been reported yesterday were still on the marine lake.
It didn't take long to find a Little Grebe (68) but other than plenty of Mallards and Canada Geese there didn't appear to be much about. We walked round the seaward side of the lake to see if anything was hidden behind the islands - it wasn't but at the far end of the far island we did see the Shag (69). With nothing else in the large open eastern end of the lake we climbed the bank to look over the sea wall, the sun was low and right in our face making the glare off the water almost impossible to contend with - all we could see where the silhouettes of several gulls. The tide was well in and had completely covered the mud flats so there was no chance of waders either.
Looking back at the lake we found five male Pochards which will be recorded on this winter's Pochard Survey. It's a shame, and perhaps a damning indictment of man's activities that such a once  'common' duck should now need a continent-wide survey to assess the nature of its decline. There was a Great Crested Grebe and several Tufted Duck but no sign of any Scaup.
FB arrived and we had a chat seeing a Little Egret (70) fly by as we talked.
Tarmac works were going on by the cafe and the footpath was out of action so we had to retrace our steps, seeing the now sleeping Pochards once again. A Pied Wagtail (71) flew over our head while we were taking pics of the Pochards.
Both pics phonescoped at range
We had a look at the shaded side of the islands but finding no Scaup we called it a day there and wandered back to the car wondering where to go next. A call from FB alerted us to a ringtail Hen Harrier a mile down the road where he had mooched off to so loading the gear into the boot we headed in his direction.
It was the first time we'd been to this location and getting out of the car it seemed quite alien to be dressed in our birding scruffs parked up next to exotic looking million quid plus houses. There's not many miles between the almost destitute and the filthy rich round these parts.
Walking round the corner to the footpath where FB was stood we instantly added Curlew (72) (another species really starting to struggle in the face of our onslaught on the natural world - who'd want to live on a planet without the incredibly evocative sounds of Curlews?) and Skylark (73) to our notebook.
We set our scope up and asked FB for directions to the Hen Harrier only to discover we'd set the scope up only fractionally off it. It was sat on a fence post or old log washed up by a high tide and spent some time looking around and preening before setting off on a hunting mission - spectacular to watch as it half floated half wafted over the increasingly wet marsh. Brilliant to get Hen Harrier (74) so early in the year but a shame there aren't more of the here - there's still a few days to sign this government petition to get driven grouse shooting banned, illegal persecution by them is main cause of the lack Hen Harriers on our estuarine marshes in the winter. Lets get the debate raised and the issue of continued criminality aired for all to hear, especially those who've never even heard of a Hen Harrier never mind seen one, at least they should be given the chance to see one fairly easily should they so wish but at the moment others are denying the thrill of seeing these superb birds.
As we watched it cruise effortlessly over the marsh it flew over a flock of Whooper Swans (75), unseen in a creek til they lifted their heads in alarm as it went over them. Other birders had joined us by now and MJ called out he'd seen and lost a Merlin. Luckily we refound it and were able to get the others on to it just as it flushed a second out of the grass - any day with two Merlins (76) and a Hen Harrier is a good day - we've still not seen a Sparrowhawk this year!
The tide wasn't quite high enough to push any pipits right to the edge of the marsh as it had done yesterday bringing a Water Pipit into view, once the tide turned and the pipits were still well out of range the gang started to drift away and we headed up to Chat Alley.
The sea was flat calm today in total contrast to yesterday's raging tempest which is probably what pushed the tide high enough in the estuary to flush the pipits off the marsh. There was a roost on the go-kart track wall but it was at the furthest point away from us. impossible to see anything other than a few of the Redshanks' heads unless we could commandeer a boat to view the roost from the seaward side, so once again no Purple Sandpiper for us.
From there we went back to Base Camp for a bite to eat and while there it went as dark as the obs of hell and the heavens opened. By the time the rain had eased it was too late to go back out.
After a very worrying start we eventually had a half decent day out birding although it would have been so much better had LCV been with us.
Where to next? With a second day off planned we could end up going here and/or there tomorrow depending on what the weatther has got in store for us.
In the meantime let us know who's spinning around in your outback.

1 comment:

cliff said...

Glad to hear LCV is OK, which is obviously the main consideration. Shame you didn't get to enjoy your planned days out as I know you were looking forward to 'em - the best laid plans etc, but plan B seems to have come up with some goodies.