Thursday, 16 August 2012

N-N-N-N-Nineteen (that dates me!)

15 August - a weather front was forecast to move through the region during the morning, so I was hopeful of some seabird movement as the pit does quite well for picking these up, terns in particular.

I made a pre-work visit earlyish morning when the skies were still relatively clear.  There was little change from the previous day!  A Common Sand was seen in flight and what might have been another close by, but I only ever saw 1 at a time, though 2 were reported later.  Gull numbers always seem to be quite low early on and build as the day progresses.  Shortly after 7am, a small group of LWHG flew in to the near spit and this contained an adult YLG and yesterday's 2cy Caspian Gull.  The Caspo only remained a couple of minutes and then took flight and flew fairly low south over the railway towards the river and Cockmarsh (Berks), though it was lost from view before getting that far.  It might have been heading towards QMR.  With little else to watch I left for work, with the skies beginning to look a little more threatening.

I was only working the morning and had promised to take the kids ten pin bowling in the afternoon.  The rain had started mid/late morning and I noticed that Dave C had visited the pit at midday and seen pretty much the same as me, though other sites not too far away had reported a few Sandwich Terns moving through.  I gave myself about 20 minutes en route to bowling to give the pit a quick check.  The rain had stopped, but again, it seemed relatively quiet.  A juvenile Greenshank appeared out of the grass on the near spit, which was evidence of some movement.  Whilst grabbing some record shots of this bird, I was conscious of a chattering noise to my right and looked up in amazement to see a newly arrived flock of Little Terns buzzing around the end of the spit.  I could hardly believe it, there were loads of them and my initial guesstimate was 15 birds (I thought the 4 juveniles I had found last August was pretty good!).  I quickly rang out the news, hoping that they wouldn't fly straight through and fortunately they all began to land on the nearside of the spit which is only a few yards away and the closest point to where I was standing.  Once they had landed, I was able to scan through them and count an incredible 19! birds They included 2 obvious juveniles, but also a few black-billed birds with dark carpal bars, the remainder were yellow-billed adults, with some in obvious moult.  I rattled off some record shots, as my 20 minutes was up, but unfortunately they came out quite poorly in the dull light.  I also gave the eastern side of the lake a quick scan, as a flock of feeding Common Terns and BHG seemed to have grown, but didn't note anything unusual amongst them.  I then had to leave to beat my kids at bowling.  LGRE was one of the first birders to arrive after I'd left and fortunately the Little Terns were still present.  He also recorded 2 juvenile Little Gulls on the eastern side (I'm pretty sure these weren't there earlier) and a juvenile Med Gull.  I popped back in after 5pm to find both these species had moved on, which is a shame, as Little Gull would have been a year tick and I've yet to see a Med Gull in juvenile plumage at the pit.  However, the 19 Little Terns were still present and performing nicely for the assembled birders and remained until almost dusk when 18 were reported to have departed.

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