As expected the Nearctic waders began arriving with Buff-breasted & Pectoral Sandpipers etc and a Long-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor RSPB. However from a single heavily cropped record shot on the internet, Rich Bonser noticed the bird appeared to have barred tertials and alerted me late on the 3rd. I decided to get down to Lodmoor as soon as I could the next day (4th) to investigate further as it was potentially something much rarer. On arrival I immediately got a view of the bird inflight, it called once and then flew out of view. Frustratingly it wasn't seen again all day despite waiting several hours for it to appear - in which time I had to return to work. The call was a rapid-fire 'tut-tut', as opposed to the single high-pitched 'keek' a Long-billed Dowitcher would make; suggesting even more that this may well be a Short-billed Dowitcher!!
Later that evening better quality images were released onto the internet from birders who were there before me, it confirmed the bird was indeed a Short-billed. I needed a better view before I could say that I had properly seen it, so gave it another go before work on the 5th with Tom Jordan. Again the bird was very elusive and hadn't shown since first light, and I soon ran out of time and had to return to work. No sooner had I done so; when news filtered out that the bird was once again showing well. Even more frustrated; I cancelled all commitments on the 6th to make sure I was there way before dawn to give me the best chance of nailing the Dowitcher. I arrived at about 05:30 and waited for the sun to rise. As soon as it was light enough the Dowitcher was found and showing well at range losely associating with Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. All the subtle details could be seen including the very well marked barred tertials and coverts of this juvenile bird. The dark capped appearance was also very noticeable thanks to a bold supercilium. Images provided by Kelvin Pearce.
Following the news from late summer that at least 9 male Baillon's Crakes had been heard singing at various locations in South-east England, East Anglia and Anglesey; it was high on everybodies predictions that one of these adult birds or even a juvenile (if any bred successfully) would be found in the autumn when the birds disperse and begin to migrate South. Any followers of my blog will already know that Baillon's is my ultimate bogey bird - having travelled all over the place to see them! Another tip off from Rich Bonser before it hit the pagers allowed me to make preperations to get to Rainham Marshes before first light (8th) where I waited in the Shooting Butts Hide from 05:50 onwards. It wasn't even light before somebody else picked up a little pale blob at the base of the reeds directly infront of us. Good scope views were had as the light increased, but unfortunately mist rolled in and prevented any decent photos. The bird actively fed for 25 minutes, picking things off the surface as well as climbing up high into the reeds (sometimes 2ft above the water), the bird eventually wandered up a hidden channel and out of view for the rest of the day.
On the way home I went to Beddington Sewage Farm in search of a possible Aquatic Warbler that unfortunately was never relocated. The afternoon was spent in Dorset with Emma and her family and allowed me the opportunity to see a Monarch butterfly that has been regularly visiting Buddleia in the ornamental park of Easton, Portland. This American vagrant probably got caught up in the same weather system as the Dowitcher on its journey from Canada to Mexico. This individual can be sexed as male by the 'androconium'; a spot in the centre of it's hind wing - or so I am told.
Sunday 9th and Emma and I had planned a day out around Arundel (West Sussex), this also gave me the chance to literally pullover enroute to see a 1st winter male Red-footed Falcon at Chichester Gravel Pits. The bird showed extremely well in the sun, often successfully hunting Dragonflies and preening close to the main path. The image and short clip were both taken with my iphone. There is also a few mammal shots that I have taken recently.
Recently I have also been spending a reasonable amount of time in the field trying to find something good locally: mainly at Pennington/Keyhaven. Highlights have included a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (found by AL) on the Shoveler Pools with Dunlin and a single juv Little Stint, Garganey on the Balancing Pond, Little Gull and Black Tern on the Jetty and an early Merlin thru East. I also managed to miss a couple of local Wrynecks; a bird I usually see annually.
On the 19th I went back to Lodmoor RSPB with Dan Houghton and Mark Rolfe for yet another look at the Short-billed Dowitcher; since the crowds have probably settled down a little and the bird appears to be a little more co-operative. Little did we know just how well the bird had been showing and so shortly after arrival we were treated to fantastic close views! This time I managed to grab a few decent record shots of my own... Birding else where around Lodmoor and Portland was relatively quiet and the only other notable bird of the day was an Osprey circling low over my home town; Hedge End.
Late afternoon of the 23rd, the incredible news of a Magnolia Warbler on Fair Isle hit the pagers, this was only the second for Britain and the first in 31 years: the last stayed just 2 days on the Isles of Scilly. So, as far as I was concerned a once in a lifetime bird that I had to go for. Within a couple of hours plans were in place for a small group of us to drive up to Wick for the next morning and wait on news where a shuttle service MIGHT be available if the bad weather holds off long enough. Well to cut a long story short, the weather held off but the bird had gone, so we didn't end up on Fair Isle, neither had we parted with any major cash so only had to contend with a rather long journey home.
Elsewhere around the country things were certainly kicking off big time. Easterly winds had kicked in and scarce migrants were literally appearing everywhere! An unprecedented arrival of Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers also took place with three birds discovered on the mainland. Unfortunately all were too far away for me to reach that day so I just stayed local; I finally caught up with a Wryneck though. Throughout the day more good birds continued to turn up; Aquatic Warbler and American Buff-Bellied Pipit on the Scillies - both of which I had also never seen. I was then hit with the dilemma of heading North for the PGTips or South-west to Scillies. In the end I decided to go to Scillies as the chances of any PGTips sticking were highly unlikely.
There wasn't alot of interest for these two birds but I managed to team up with Kelvin Pearce. We got down to Marazion Marshes RSPB for first light where we saw two Spotted Crakes briefly - thanks to a Moorhen, before heading off to the Scillonian. The crossing was abit bumpy but not the worse we'd experienced. Two Bonxies and a dozen Storm Petrel were all we managed to see. Once on the island we dashed immediately up to Pennises Head where we both managed a seconds-long view of the Pipit before it took flight and seemed to fly right into the distance. Not good!! There was alot of movement with Pipits, Wheatears and Linnets coming and going all the time so it come as abit of surprise when I refound it 20 minutes later. The bird showed well and I was extremely pleased to have finally caught up with this species. Previous dip here.
Kelvin and I then got a lift with Spider to Porthloo Pond to try and find the Aquatic Warbler. Chances of us finding it here were literally zero but as we both needed it, gave it some time. A couple of other birders were also looking. One of the local birders decided to give up, mounted his moped and road off down the road only to stop 100 yards on because he'd seen a warbler resembling the Aquatic flying parallel with his ped that then dropped into the iris bed on the opposite side of the road. I then walked thru the iris bed and flushed an Acro; presumably the bird he'd seen. To be honest that bird looked like a Sedge Warbler but I persued it further only to flush another bird at close range. This bird was clearly the Aquatic, appearing daintier inflight, straw coloured with obvious bold streaks down the mantle and back. The Aquatic was seen again once or twice giving relatively prolonged flight views at close range before we lost it in dense vegetation, but were thoroughly pleased with what we had seen considering we expected to see nothing!
We still had time to spare so headed back to Hugh Town, an Ortolan Bunting had been seen on Porthcressa Beach that we tried to find. It didn't take much finding as this individual was ridiculously confiding. Literally hopping within two metres of us as it actively caught flies on the beach. The bird does have a gammy left eye (that apparently seems to be healing) and a few ruffled feathers which may have something to do with its tameness. A just-as-approachable Little Stint was also feeding on the same beach allowing more fantastic photo opportunities! The boat back to the mainland was relatively uninteresting besides 5 Fulmar and a Manx Shearwater.