Wednesday, 20 February 2013

I'm All Right Jack

19th February - a cold start, but by the afternoon, it was pleasantly mild and very sunny.  I made a mid afternoon visit by which time, viewing from the west on a sunny afternoon gives the best conditions and everything was lit up and bathed in sunshine.

There are still huge numbers of Snipe on site.  Usually in the morning, they are huddled at the base of the reeds in small groups and can be hard to see and count, but by the afternoon, they often become more active and are easier to see.  I decided to try a count and reached an amazing 103 birds - my highest count to date, though I think there have been slightly higher counts this winter.  Buoyed by seeing 2 Jack Snipes earlier in the day at my old stomping ground Dinton Pastures, where there were only a few accompanying Snipe, I decided to have another look at these birds - there had to be at least one Jack amongst them!  Having been through these birds many times over the past few months and finding nothing but Common Snipe, it felt a bit like just reward that almost the first bird I looked at this afternoon had no central crown stripe and there it was feeding away out in the open on a small grass strip between the reeds and the lake, a lovely little Jack Snipe.  These apparently used to be much more regular here some years ago, but are now much harder to locate and this was only my second here.  Fortunately it remained on view feeding along the reed line for the rest of the afternoon, enabling at least 4 other people to see it.  Funnily enough, I am used to seeing these little birds bobbing away as if on springs, but this bird only did this rarely and was generally probing in a sewing machine like style - maybe he was just hungry!

A couple of awful record shots, just about show its small size and dark body with 'stand-out' golden mantle stripes - it was quite a long way away and it is a small bird (excuses, excuses!).  All my shots had its distinctive head pattern and small bill hidden in the grass!

It's the small bird head down in the centre - honest!

The right hand central bird - I think you can make out some of the head pattern in this.
Then my attention to turned to the gathering gulls - Common Gulls are now appearing in some number and there were many hundreds on site.  Amongst these, firstly the regular 1w Caspian Gull arrived, did a spot of preening and then disappeared, so had presumably flown off.  Then I picked out the head of an adult Med Gull in the middle of the throng.  It was difficult to see and kept being obscured, although eventually Dave C picked it out as well.  Judging by the extent of the black hood, although extensively flecked with white, extending over the sides and back of the head, this is possibly the bird seen on 11th Feb, though slightly more advanced. It could equally as well be a new bird.

Wildfowl of note included all 8 Pintail again, mostly under the main island willows, including 6 males and 2 females.  Shelduck numbered 4 birds today.

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