Saturday, 31 March 2012

March 2012

The month started off nicely with a cracking drake American Wigeon (3rd) amongst Wigeon at Anglers' Country Park (W. Yorks) whilst I was visiting Emma in Sheffield again, the same day also offered a drake Smew and Black-necked Grebe that both showed well at range. The long-staying 1st winter Glaucous Gull was still knocking around off the Blue Dial outflow pipe, just south of Allonby, Cumbria (8th) with another 1st winter bird showing very well at Hartlepool Fish Quay (10th). The Fish Quay also held a pale Kumlien's(-type) Gull that occasionally came to bread and a drake Green-winged Teal was viewable distantly on Dorman's Pool, at Saltholme RSPB.I then spent a few days doing my sponsored walk from Carlisle to Borrowdale to raise money for our Romania expedition for Uni in May. Typical moorland birds were noted with a ringtail Hen Harrier being one of the highlights and a redhead Smew (13th) was a pleasant surprise on Derwent Water with a handful of Goldeneye. Bird of the month was found by the Cumbrian County Recorder on the 17th at Standing Tarn near Dalton-in-Furness but news wasn't released till too late in the day. However, the next morning the 1st-winter Laughing Gull was relocated nice and early, slightly to the NE of where it was previously seen with a feeding flock of about 500-odd Gulls. This was only the second Laughing Gull I have seen in Britain following the 1st for Hampshire during the famous influx of 2005 so understandably I was pretty keen to see another! I managed to get some very poor footage at the highest magnification I could get. The afternoon was spent near Raby Cotes and Border in the north of the county where I scanned tens of thousands of Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese for at least 3 hours for the rather smart looking blue morph Lesser Snow Goose that has been seen sporadically at various places in the area since January. The scattered mixed flocks made it surprisingly difficult to pick out the white-headed blue morph, but 9 Eurasian White-fronts were picked out and a Merlin sat on a mound. Andy Holden and Vicky Turner joined in on the search from a different viewpoint and no sooner had I answered the phone to Andy when the Snow Goose miraculously appeared in the centre of my scope flying in with a dozen Pinks, Vicky also managed to get onto it from where she was before it went down into a channel and out of view! The image was provided by Craig Shaw - taken earlier in the year.

The undoubted biggie of the month concerned a stunning Baillon's Crake on Great Saltee Island, Co. Wexford (Ireland). It was twitched extensively from across Ireland on its first day where it was ridiculously confiding and those who managed to get onto the island on the first day were treated to brilliant views. I attempted to see it on the first possible day from mainland Britain on 25th but as soon as we arrived on the island our hearts sunk. Realising the lack of suitable of habitat, clear sky, and the fact the mainland was still insight we knew immediately there was no way in hell the Crake would have stayed another night! A thorough search revealed no sign but some early migrants were very scant consolation (Short-eared Owl, Swallow, Sand Martin, Chiffs, Willow Warblers, White Wagtail, Sandwich Tern and Black Redstarts) and you could clearly see the potential this island has for attracting early spring overshoots!! This was my first big dip in a while.

On the last day evening I was in Cumbria (28th) I went to an undisclosed site where at least 2 Long-eared Owls were displaying well. Once back in Hampshire on the last day of the month (31st) for Easter break I did the rounds at Needs Ore with Lee Fuller with nothing really out the ordinary, then onto the wintering Rose-coloured Starling at Hordle where this bird showed frustrating well but constantly deep inside a bush where photographic opportunities were limited somewhat.

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