Wednesday, 26 April 2017

MEGA - Black-winged Stilts!!

20th April - As I left for work this morning, I fully intended to do a quick check of the pit beforehand, but for some reason, at the last minute, I decided to turn the car the other way and get into work early instead - not one of my best decisions......

Just after 10am, as I sitting in front of my computer some 70 miles away from the patch, a message came through from patch stalwart Alan S that he had found a Black-winged Stilt in front of the island, followed a short while later to say there were two!!  This is an absolute patch mega, a third record for the county following a pair in the 80s and a pair just last year, both in Milton Keynes (I suspect that over the coming years, national records are likely to increase - it was even dropped from the BBRC list of rarities this year).

Anyway, back to that absolutely fantastic find for Alan, but I couldn't help thinking that they would have been there if I had dropped in before work as intended and now I was unable to get to site before 6pm earliest!  I had an agonising day of people texting, phoning, sending pictures, whilst I was just hoping that they wouldn't flush!  I was, however, hopeful that they would stay the day, as most records seem to show onward movement after dark.

As I had got into work early, I left early too, but encountered heavy traffic and didn't pull into the car park until after 6pm.  It was raining lightly now too!  Simon R was just leaving, confirming their continued presence and I quickly made my way to the lake.  I was the only person there, but soon saw the delightful pair of Stilts wading in front of the island - a massive relief.  I now had time to enjoy them, but not for long, as one of the local foxes came charging around the spit and flushed them.  They started to fly north and gained height, their ridiculously long legs trailing behind them.  It looked like they were leaving, but then they dropped down behind the tall trees at the base of the spit, possibly looking at the old works area.  Ash S had arrived just as they disappeared and I said it may be worth a look in this area, but just as I was packing my scope up, they flew in again and landed right in front of us along the near spit.  This allowed us to get some photos, but as the light was so poor, many of them lacked proper focus.  My best efforts are below:

Often wading in deep water - the legs are very long!

Showing the length of the legs

Another showing the legs
The birds were rarely close enough together to get both in shot.  I left at about 7:20pm as I had to pick my son up, but left a few Berks birders who were hoping that they might fly the few hundred yards south over the river and into their county - there are no recent records for Berks.  If they did fly into Berks, it was well after dark and both birds had departed site by morning.

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