Tuesday, 18 June 2013

May 2012

I started the month based in Cumbria with only a few days remaining before I planned to hand in my final media project and hence complete my three years at uni. Like the second half of last month my time was concentrated in the editing suites; only one bird briefly distracted me before I returned back home to Southampton and that was a Blue-headed Wagtail in Northumberland. I had been planning to meet up with Cain anyway, so this seemed like a good enough excuse to do it sooner rather than later. The bird itself performed very nicely and was almost entirely on view feeding on the line of seaweed with dozens of White and Pied Wagtails, Wheatears and the odd Yellow Wagtail. Rather embarrassingly this was the first of this race I had seen in Britain.
A few days later I submitted my final project, and wasted no time in packing my stuff up to head home! Migration had been particularly slow with no real notable passages till that point and it was clear most things had been delayed somewhat due to the weather and so for the first few days in Hampshire I visited several sites with very little reward besides the low numbers of common and expected migrants.
The first notable birding session was a seawatch after work on the 8th from Stokes Bay. Visibility was poor but I was convinced stuff would be moving. On occasions the sea mist did lift and I could see Gannets passing through The Solent which is always a good sign. In a slightly prolonged clear spell I picked up my first Little Gull and Arctic Skuas of the year heading East before the mist limited my view again. I knew the weather was meant to improve early evening so I stuck around till then. Within moments of clearing more Arctic Skuas passed through with a number of Commic Terns including two distant Roseates, a Whimbrel and strangely a Turtle Dove flew up the beach. But the creme de la creme came with a stunning adult Pomarine Skua with spoons East down the beach providing excellent views. Shortly after another did the same but without such an impressive tail.
Odds and sods elsewhere kept the interest going but it was generally slow going and by mid-month the only other highlights were a Cuckoo singing from my bedroom window at 4am, and... well.... that was it really. But despite how poor the general birding seemed to be, there was still the hope that a decent bird would be found somewhere else. Though I really didn't expect to be woken by various phone calls late on Friday 17th to find various photos of a Dusky Thrush in Kent circulating the regular birding sites.

In many ways it was a similar scenerio to the Cream-coloured Courser last year, and there was no way I could continue trying to sleep knowing that that was about. I hopped out of bed and wasted an hour or so fannying about with the car before I picked up the Fullers and began the journey to Kent, with the aim of getting there just before first light.

About 300 others had the same idea. But nobody knew the whereabouts of the bird within the grounds of Margate cemetery. There were thousands of headstones and all we had to go on were a few photos that provided some clues to where the Thrush may have been frequenting. The first showing a partially covered headstone with Ivy. The other, an Ash tree with the leaves still yet to emerge. A bit of team work was required. Dan Pointon rather impressively located the headstone (perhaps he's done this kind of thing before?), but there was still no sign of the bird.

An hour later I took a wander around the back to see if it was lurking beyond the trees directly infront of us. No sooner had I done so, when I noticed a small Thrush sat motionless in a tree. I knew immediately what it was, whistled to alert others, and the rest was history. It continued to show well on and off for the remainder of the morning till we left.
We stopped at Reculver on the way home to see a first-summer male Montagu's Harrier that performed nicely, albeit too distantly for photographs.

Following the appearance of the Dusky Thrush, a number of discussions have ensued relating to the amount of rufous in the flanks. It's difficult to find much information on these birds and the intergrades within them, but Chinese birders (who are in regular contact with the species') think it may carry Black-throated Thrush genes, whereas Lars Svensson deems it to be bang on.
The following weekend (25th) and there was a surprise within the county. An adult Roller; inland at Broxhead Common. A rarity like this has been a long time coming in Hampshire and attracted an impressive crowd in little time of news breaking. The bird itself was distant, so all I could get were severely cropped phonescoped images at the highest magnification I can. But regardless of how distant the bird was, Rollers never cease to impress.

On the way home I went in search of butterflies at Noar Hill with several each of Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper being the highlights. Not a good day for photography as I again had the wrong lens with me.
Towards the end of the month I visited Lakenheath RSPB with the Fullers where a showy Red-footed Falcon was on offer. Although I am disappointed with my photographic results (compared to Lee's anyway), I was very much impressed with the adult male hawking literally metres above our heads providing excellent views. A Golden Oriole and two Grasshopper Warblers sung throughout the morning, at least 5 Bitterns were active and a Common Crane flew through, making for a productive morning.

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