03 May 2010

Six Year Ticks.

I spent the morning high tide at the WWT's Middle Point 'Hide'*. Windy, but dry and productive.

*-I say hide, but the old van is next to useless as such... and pointless, as the birds just aren't fussed provided you stand within the area indicated. You can see bugger all from inside, anyway. It only has value if you happen to be caught in a heavy shower, and even then I'd be skeptical.

Firstly though, on the drive upto the reserve a Hobby flew infront of my car. I only saw it in silhouette, but the shape was clear. The first of six year ticks today.

Ran into two singing Lesser Whitethroats (what did I say about seeing them everywhere after breaking my duck!) along the summer walkway. Glimpsed one deep in the hedgerow.

Upon arrival, a couple of hours before high tide, there were lots of Dunlin (most in breeding plumage) and Ringed Plover (year tick #2) scuttling about in the middle distance along with five or six Bar-tailed Godwits and a few more Curlew.

Time passed. A Little Egret flew in, a Meadow Pipit sang in flight and a Reed Bunting disappeared behind some vegetation. Two Whimbrels flew overhead calling; one would later land on the mud infront of the hide. A Sedge Warbler finally revealed itself in the reeds to the right of the hide after frustrating me with it's song for half an hour or so. Another remained elusive along with one or two Reed Warblers in the reeds immediately to the left of the hide. Gulls continued to push up river, but nothing unusual I don't think.

There was also a decent-sized fish stranded on the mud at about 10.30am. A juvenile Herring Gull spotted it and moved in. Fortunately for the fish, the Gull didn't seem to know how to tackle the situation. It pecked at the tail a number of times and recoiled each time the fish reacted. Presently the Gull gave up and perhaps the fish survived long enough to be rescued by the tide.

Once the tide began to advance one of the other birders present identified a Great Crested Grebe on the far side (on the river!), an Oystercatcher flew over it's head and - FINALLY - a sole Wheatear (year tick #3) perched on the fence posts to the left of the hide giving nice views. A couple of Swallows passed through, then three Swifts flying low (year tick #4).

The most interesting sighting of the morning was made by the same person who spotted the Grebe - clearly an experienced birder. In the far distance, flying down river, was an immature Kittiwake (year tick #5)! I can add it to my list because although I failed to see the wing markings myself, I did get my bins on it briefly. So I did see it!

At 12.20ish, showers were closing in and I headed back to the main reserve. I didn't bother with any other hides, except to stop just after passing through the Holden Tower to add Reed Warbler (tick #6) to my year list.

That makes for 149 birds so far this year; two more than last. The Kittiwake was the 148th, and the one to take me past last years total.

I stopped off at the 100-Acre where three more Lesser Whitethroats crossed my path (half decent views of two - one in flight)!!! Not a great deal there, although to be fair I didn't stay long enough to earn any luck... but other birds spotted included a nice male Linnet, a pair of Goldfinches, three Redshank, many Reed and Sedge Warblers, Swifts high up and a lone male Wigeon. There was also a very, very mouthy Chiffchaff:

And on the canal, a cute family of Mallards:

The best bird at the 100-Acre however, was a nice female Whinchat along Green Lane to complement the male I'd seen last Saturday.

Finally, I have started a Balloon List:

1) Blue
2) White

The balloons were drifting down river at some considerable elevation in a tight teardrop formation, and showing well in the sunshine. I was unable to confirm the age or sex of the balloons. I am looking forward to seeing more balloons soon.

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