After a long spell with no birding to speak of, the lure of the Little Bittern at Ham Wall / Walton Heath proved too much on a decent but windy Sunday morning.
Arrival at the site was later than hoped for, but no later tham 8.00am. A number of others were about too - no doubt prompted by the decent number of recent sightings over Walton Heath.
The only game available was the waiting game, and at 10.15am-ish the bird was spotted very briefly indeed by someone who happened to have their scope pointing in the right direction at the right time. Nobody else caught it. Twenty-five minutes later the same thing happened; the briefest of brief appearances above the reeds. I caught movement in my bins, but nothing more. It was moving so fast. For some reason it hadn't occured to me that this bird would be a sharp-shooter. I thought Heron = slow moving. Of course this is nonsense, a Little Bittern should move quickly.
Technically this glimpse of movement was enough for a tick - but it would've been an empty tick and I wanted more than that... I wanted to see it properly. At 11.00am the bird obliged. Hot off the heels of a Marsh Harrier showing well, it finally rose above the reeds for an extended flight. Everyone got a great view. A spankingly smart male bird flying at away from us at a gentle angle - so only the head was hard to see. A definite result, a great lifer and a hugely satisfying tick. The same bird had eluded me last year, and I'd also spent many an hour at the Porth Hellick hide on Scilly not seeing one.
I knew about the Gull-billed Tern at Bowling Green Marsh RSPB. I wasn't going to go for it. However people started talking about it as their next bird for the day... and I couldn't resist. So off to Topsham I went.
At the hide many were gathered after sightings all morning, but come 1.00pm the bird had apparantly flown down river. Drat. There were many Black-tailed Godwits, a few Oystercatchers, Little Egrets, but the Tern was definitely not hidden amongst the throng of Black-headed Gulls. Presently a Crow spooked the Gulls, which triggered an exodus down river towards the estuary (the tide was on it's way out). I - and many others - followed to the estuary viewing platform. Nothing but the same birds transplanted from the Marsh. The only point of interest was one Mediterranean Gull (second winter) separate from the main Gull flock.
The view from the platform:
So... I got the Little Bittern (the bird I originally went for), but dipped on the Tern. Could be worse!