Friday, 14 April 2017

Spring seems to have unsprung itself

The Safari had a day off work yesterday and was out early on a cold blustery morning. The wind direction was totally wrong for migrants to fall but we left Base Camp off full of hope as birders always do.
The now usual Cetti's Warbler was heard as we parked up at the gate to the wetland and seconds later the Blackcap in the boundary hedge fired up too. Other than those two regulars it was quiet, very quiet! We met up with old friend LR and set off to see what we could see.
We listened along the way for any hint of Grasshopper Warblers but there was nothing to be heard. 
Down at the viewing platform the water was almost devoid of life, the male Mute Swan driving anything away that came too close to his mate on their nest in the reeds. Close by behind us were a Wren and a Chiffchaff and a something doing an unidentified song. It sounded reminiscent of a Wood Warbler but wasn't quite right but we never really got onto anything to confirm the identity of the singer. Every time we thought we had a Wren popped up - do Wrens sometimes forget their whole song and just concentrate on the trill at the end? But it didn't sound quite right for that either...a mystery!
The scrub and developing woods were also very quiet save for the occasional burst of song from the odd Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackcap. The Blackcaps were infuriatingly hard to spot and we're beginning to think we might have to wait until the autumn when they're feeding on berries to get our pic for our Year Bird Challenge. Getting a pic  of the local Willow Warblers might be even trickier as they don't feed on berries. The seem very thin on the ground this year, lets hope there's more to come but they have been declining very rapidly in recent years. So far they've not been for singing from exposed perches preferring to stay deep in the shelter of the the densest bushes and who can blame them in the wintry conditions we're currently 'enjoying'.
On a more positive note LR managed to find two Bee Orchid rosettes only minutes after complaining and us agreeing that we'd both looked and looked and not having see many were convinced none were going to show this season.
Down at the scrape we hoped the two Little Ringed Plovers that were reported the previous evening would still be around - they weren't. There were just a few Teal a couple of Shovelers, two male Gadwall and a coupla three Moorhens. above them and which may have come out of a reedbed roost were at least 50 Sand Martins and we just about managed a pic, one out of c150 shots for our Year Bird Challenge, (YBC #107)
The ubiquitous Cetti's Warblers blasted out their explosive song and there was THE single Reed Warbler too, actually there's probably two on site now but we only heard this one. Further on along the embankment we saw that at least one of the Sand Martins was in fact a Swallow (YBC #108). It was well out over the water and wouldn't come towards us above the tree tops in the distance only doing so once it had turned to redo it's feeding loop. There was a bit of blue sky by now but don't be fooled it wasn't any warmer.
At the bridge LR double back retracing his steps while we continued on the circuit towards the car. We stopped in the hide briefly to see very little, the recent Little Gull was nowhere to be seen, like all the other good stuff then, so we pushed on keen to get back to the car to try another site. EP was coming the other way and told us that news had broken of a drake Garganey at the site we intended to visit next - nice one. Hopefully the earlier reported Little Ringed Plovers would still be there too.
It didn't take too long to get there and as soon as we pulled up we spotted a Common Sandpiper (130, YBC #109) on the mud on the other side of the creek through the fence. Dropping the window we poked the camera out and fired away, and then the phone rang - a work number so probably needing answering, but at least we'd got the Common Sandpiper on our Year Bird Challenge.
As we were on the phone we could see a few birds on the little stony island out in the creek. A Lapwing catching the sun its plumage looking resplendent in the now bright sunshine.
And a sleepy Black Tailed Godwit also looking resplendent in its summer garb.
Also while we were on the phone another birder turned up and within seconds of  putting his scope up had found the Garganey (131, YBC #110). Once our call was over he kindly let us have a look through his scope. It was a long way off, right on the very edge of the lens' range and didn't wake up all the time we were there.
The Black Tailed Godwit did wake up in the end but we missed it having a good old stretch.
We haven't mentioned the Little Ringed Plovers as they'd done a bunk. After that we had an errand to run before lunch but were able to stop at another site on the estuary but the tide was already very high and almost right up to the wall. Only a small bit of the mudflats were still uncovered but the water was rising fast. A quick scan gave us just a few Oystercatchers but then a second longer more intense scan gave us what we wanted, just three Knot (YBC #111) out of the thousands that were probably there half an hour earlier but had already gone to roost on higher ground.
The light was seriously against us and the tide was seriously against their short little legs. They soon ran out of time and had to fly.
Here's a tight crop of the left-hand bird.
That was that for safari-ing yesterday but we did try the very same again this morning with even less success and a lot more rain. We got trapped in one of the hides by a spell of heavy rain and were able to watch a pair of Little Grebes fishing. The rain dropped a bucket load of Sand Martins and we tried to better our duff shot from yesterday.

Again this is the best of c100 much worse shots - don't think it's any better than yesterday's effort. Really need some decent sunshine to do these speedy little beauties justice. Getting a bit closer wouldn't go a miss either.
Where to next? Being a glutton for punishment we'll probably try the same again tomorrow. We have a terrible fear that spring will happen once we're back at work and snowed under at our desk.
In the meantime let us know who's braving the cold in your outback 

1 comment:

Stuart Price said...

Swallows and Martins are very hard to photograph. Swifts are slightly easier as they seem to fly in straighter lines!