Friday, 19 February 2016

Twice bittern twice shy

The Safari has been out wildlifing this week - honest! And we've added a few species at both our Patchwork Challenge sites.
Our main target/hope of the week has been the Bitterns at the nature reserve but our best success has come from Patch 2 where we watched a Ringed Plover (108, P2 #38) drop on the beach in front of our watch point and promptly picked several quite long and very slender worms out of the sand. Impressive stuff, when we're digging over that way we never see anything like them yet they must be there in reasonable numbers for the Ringed Plover to catch so many within a few minutes, without moving more than a few steps in any direction.
The drive from work to the nature reserve took us to the outer reaches of our Patchwork Challenge work patch and while waiting at the traffic lights on the patch boundary we saw a flock of Jackdaws feeding on the football pitches opposite - the wrong side of the patch boundary line but the rules allow sightings made from within the patch. These are well outside our 'normal' Patch 2 recording area though - all horrendously geographically confusing! Back on the 'real' Patch 2 apart from the aforementioned Ringed Plover there hasn't been a great deal of note, not a lot of the usual and nothing remotely unusual.
We have been able to get on the beach a couple of times, the first time with BD we found a nice undamaged mermaid's purse from a Thornback Ray.
Once work was over a trip to the nature reserve was in order. Making our way to the south west corner which gives the best vantage point over almost all of the reedbeds we settled in for a long watch. It was cool bordering on chilly and there wasn't much happening. We didn't see or hear the Little Grebe that was seen by others but did note a recent increase in the number of Goldeneyes, now eight of them, and Shovelers, up to a respectable 45 but still well short of numbers that used to be here 20 years or so ago. Light rain started to fall and there was some umm-ing and ahh-ing as to whether or not we should call it a day, then the Iceland Gull dropped in right in front of us - decision made - STAY!
But alas the rain came down heavier and colder and there was little chance of the Bitterns coming out to play so despite the best efforts of the gorgeous Iceland Gull we packed up and left before we got soaked through.
Two evening's later and we were back in the same place to be greeted by a small crowd of hopeful birders. This time we had a little more success seeing not one but two Little Grebes (MMLNR #75) tucked up looking all lovey- dovey on the edge of the reeds and then being put onto a third a little way down the mere. Later, almost at dusk, what could well have been a fourth appeared making its way along the north reeds to join the others we'd seen earlier, or was it the third doing a circuit we'd not noticed go back down that way? A white shape over the far side of the reserve was the local Barn Owl out hunting well before it got dark and gave us a very enjoyable if slightly distant display before headed off east through the scrub to the rough fields. Later it was seen again this time even further away down by the east embankment.
From the opposite side of the little bay a Chiffchaff called and then sounded as though it was closer in the reeds, we whistled the call and chiff-chaff song, remarkably it responded and came and sat on the Bramble thicket right in front of us giving great views as it flicked its wings in agitation at another 'Chiffchaff' somewhere in its patch.
Still no Bitterns though as one by one the other birders drifted off leaving just three of us stalwarts and the local Rabbits for the richest pickings.
Dusk fell the greens of day turned to greys of night and still the Bitterns refused to show. We left as a few Snipe left their reedbed hideaways unseen against the now dark sky to feed elsewhere.
So two and a quarter hours stood out there in the cold and not a pic to show for it. Same as the previous one and three quarter hours stood out there in the cold then! We might not have seen the Bitterns but it was worth it, plenty of other wildlife to enjoy and some good birding banter too makes for a far better time than being sat indoors watching drivel on the telly.
Today we weren't able to get an early morning look over the seawall and had to wait until lunchtime when again we were time constrained. Nothing much doing out on the sea but a quick look through the not so very many gulls working the receding tide revealed a Herring Gull with ludicrously bright pink, almost fluorescent pink, legs. It didn't stick around long before flying to join the thousands of other gulls on the wide beach to the south. In flight there wasn't anything unusual looking about it but those legs!!! If anyone is old enough to remember Bazooka Joe bubble gum that's the sort of colour they were - vivid.
Well maybe not quite that pink - but almost
We look at a lorra lorra Herring Gulls and have never seen any with anything like as pink legs as this one. A North American gene or two in there perhaps. We'll be on the look out for it next week.
Where to next? The weekend beckons as does some important family stuff so our time out on safari will be a bit limited.
In the meantime let us know who's wafting gracefully around your outback

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