Wednesday, 24 April 2013

April 2012

I have been very busy this month with back to back assignments as I near the end of student life. To say nothing has happened in the first half of the month wouldn't be an exaggeration, outings have been few and far between. Unfortunately I still haven't even had the chance to see the more numerous spring migrants yet. However I can't go a whole month without at least two or three trips out. On the 7th, Dan Houghton and I made an attempt to twitch the Killdeer in Lancashire from Southampton, but we didn't get very far before it flew off, so still no birds.

An ill-timed trip to Poland with Emma that coincided with an ever growing pile of work for me to do wasn't really what I needed. But we made the most of an awkward situation; the evenings were spent writing essays but the days were fun and productive; exploring the city of Krakov, while visiting Auschwits and the salt mines were thought provoking to say the least.
On the birding front nothing worth mentioning happened till the 15th when I was pleasantly distracted from another essay when I noticed a male Redstart picking at the apples I had left out for the Blackbirds on the front lawn constituting the first for the garden. It seemed to spend all morning there but would go missing for periods and I only managed a few mediocre images before the Yorkshire Baikal Teal hit the pagers. It was a bit of a risk as deadlines were looming, but I had planned to head back to Carlisle that day anyway. I quickly packed up some clothes (I now realise I didn't pack enough) and my laptop before dashing off.
By late afternoon I arrived at Flamborough Head where the bird was out of view. Keen to see it as promptly as possible so I could be on my way again, I jumped onto the fence behind the hide and looked over which gave me enough height to pick out the bird roosting on the near side shortly before it became more active again. A quick swim before it grazed with three Wigeon offered great, albeit distant views of this attractive duck.

It looked good in the field. Wings looked complete and the legs unringed and its behaviour no different to what you'd expect a wild bird to act like. It had apparently flown in-off the sea that morning with Wigeon during a period of good movement of wildfowl and as you'd expect it was gone the next day as the birds appeared to be actively migrating. Once back in Cumbria I reviewed some of the images taken throughout the day and the wing damage evident in Martin Garner's flight shots warranted some concern. However with damage to outer secondaries and a little to the inner primaries this bird does not seem to have been clipped nor pinioned but the damage looks rather reminiscent of predatory or gun shot damage so it'll be interesting to see what the BBRC do with this one. Another one pending. These shots were phonescoped so not the best quality but not bad considering the distance.
I had to wait till the 21st for another trip out. This time with Tristan and Chris over to the east coast where we hoped to catch up with some migrants. There were lots in already and hirundine flocks were well represented throughout the day and even contained our first Swift of the year. Warblers in and around Saltholme included Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiff-chaff and Willow, Reed and Sedge Warblers; all in song. A Common Tern was over the Back Saltholme Pools where two smart Black-necked Grebe were hanging out and a drake Garganey fed on the Dorman's Pool, but the highlight of the morning was the drake Lesser Scaup on the allotment pool amongst a small flock of aythyas.

We headed a little further north in the afternoon to Houghton-le-Spring where the Little Bunting Tristan and I  saw last November was still in situ (though it had gone missing for about 5 months in between). It didn't take too much finding as it was regularly singing its heart out and offered ridiculously close range views. It will certainly be a while before I get another opportunity to see this species so well again!! It was so close I managed a quick sound recording on my phone. Thanks to Joe Stockwell for the edit.

Back in the media suites after that to crack on with my final media project, in a prison cell like room with no windows. Needless to say it was quite depressing and I would have taken any excuse to dash off at a moments notice though I really didn't expect anything to come to my saviour since I rarely get more than one new bird in a spring these days  I almost went east for an Iberian Chiff-chaff but couldn't justify going that far for a bird I have already seen a few times in Britain so stayed put. That was until Adam Hutt produced the goods at Spurn by stumbling upon a female Rock Thrush. I waited for Mick Frosdick, who coming down from Scotland picked me up enroute and within 3 hours we were at Spurn...and watching the bird! The bird itself was very co-operative albeit at range and was nearly always on view except when it popped to the ground to feed giving a flash of its red tail in the process. Admittedly not the most attractive of birds when perched and at that sort of range but on occasions it came close enough to see the scaly breast and red-tinged flanks.

Whilst watching the Thrush in a field with Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails we were rudely interrupted by Adam Hutt again as he alerted everybody on the Spurn Radio System of a Caspian Tern flying out of the Humber and heading northwards close inshore. A quick sprint to the beach and we were all watching it as it casually flew past. A fantastic bonus, and only the second of the species I had seen in Britain. A red letter day for Spurn and more impressively for patcher Adam Hutt! Congratulations!!

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