Friday, 16 May 2014

Purple Patching

I've been rather busy lately, so a bit delayed in writing this post, but it's been quite a week on the patch.

I'll go back to last Sunday morning, the 11th, when once again I was down at the pit by 6am full of hope.  It doesn't take long for hope to dwindle though and by 7am I hadn't seen much and nothing seemed to be moving.  Kim D joined me shortly afterwards and at 7:30am one of the birds of the morning flew over our heads calling, a Yellow Wagtail flew west.  This species has been remarkably scarce this Spring and this is only my second of the year.  At 8:50am, a flock of 5 Ringed Plover descended and landed on the spit.  This raised our hopes that waders were on the move, but by 9:30am with no more arrivals, I went home for breakfast.  The usual pair of LRP and 8 Shelduck were the other birds of note.

May 12th - I was working today, but made the effort to make a quick sojourn to the pit.  At this time of year you never know what might turn up.  On arrival, I could see a small white egret standing on the end of the near spit.  This is an unusual place to get egrets, but I expected it to be a Little.  I lifted my bins and was amazed to see a summer plumaged Cattle Egret - what!!! I couldn't believe it and wanted to get a record shot as quickly as possible.  Pretty much all my photos are taken through the scope, so I started to pull the legs out on the tripod.  I hadn't got very far when the egret took flight and I watched it fly south from the pit and over the railway.  Luckily, it looked like it was dropping into the meadow.

At this point, rather than tearing after it, I thought that I should at least scan the rest of the spit and lake to see if there was anything else.  Almost immediately, I saw a 1st summer LWHG that looked very good for Caspian.  It was standing in front of the island, but no sooner had I put my scope on it than it sat down, put its bill in its back and went to sleep.  Still, I thought I had seen enough to call it and then went in hot pursuit of the egret.  En route to the meadow, I called the news in and hoped that the egret would be there.  In fact it wasn't, so now what? where had it gone? I decided to walk along the railway bank and as I did a group of egrets flew over my head from the south and all landed in the heronry.  A quick scan with my bins revealed that one of them was the Cattle Egret - phew!  I was now able to grab some record shots and then returned to the west side as I needed to get to work.  Once there, I found that the Cattle Egret was now on the spit with a couple of Littles, so I took some more records.  The Caspian Gull was still asleep, so no luck with shots here, but I had to go, very happy with another patch tick and about the 5th county record.

Quick grab in the heronry

Back on the spit

Luckily for the listers, the egret stayed for most of the day and I understand even flew across the Thames into Berks at one point.  I returned at lunchtime and saw the bird again, but it was much more distant now, mainly feeding with a group of Little Egrets on the far side of the spit.  I was, however, able to get a better look and some records of the Caspian Gull - its head was not as clean looking as it had appeared in the morning and it made me wonder whether it might have some hybrid genes in it, even though the other plumage traits and bill all looked good to me.  I have asked for another opinion, although CDRH independently told me that he thinks it is a hybrid, particularly because the underwing is not white - a feature that I did not see.
A lot of good looking Caspian plumage features, but is the head too streaked and the wrong shape?

May 13th - I had the morning off so went down to see if the Cattle Egret was still about.  I couldn't find it, but at last a Whimbrel was present roosting on the spit.  Expecting this bird to fly off any minute, as they often do, I got some record shots, but amazingly it remained all day, usually standing on one leg with its bill tucked in - it must have been pretty tired!
It usually looked like this

Although did wake up occasionally
Shortly after finding the Whimbrel, a noisy flock of 8 Ringed Plovers flew in.  Some landed briefly before 6 departed quite quickly, leaving 2 to stay for the next 2 days.  They looked good for tundra RPs.  It's been a good year for Ringed Plovers on site, with 2 flocks of 5 birds and now 1 of 8.
I returned to the pit in the afternoon just before I had to pick up the kids from school.  The Whimbrel was still standing there, but little else seemed to be happening.  I left just before 3pm.  At 3:07pm I received a text from Dave C just as I was driving through the village.  I stopped to look at it and couldn't believe what I was reading, "spoonbill lmgp".  Was this a text from last week just turning up?  I rang Dave and no, he was watching a Spoonbill that had just appeared from nowhere in front of the island.  I contemplated turning around, but I didn't have time, so went to fetch the children from school.  Shortly later, with my daughter at a piano lesson, I quickly took my son down and found the full summer plumaged Spoonbill roosting in the heronry - this was amazing.  From the colour of the bill tip, it looked very similar to the bird that was here exactly one week ago, so who knows where it has been in the meantime.
A very quick grab as it roosted in the heronry
 Jim R got some video footage of the bird here:
So an amazing couple of days, just waiting for Great White Egret and Glossy Ibis now!

No comments:

Post a Comment