Monday, 21 October 2013

A Trio Of Ticks

After a post moaning about the lack of patch year ticks - along come three!

Rewinding back to Friday, and I was just having a bite to eat before work when Fraser (our reserves warden) phoned.  He could hear Bearded Tits calling from the reeds on Stafford Marsh, and whilst on the phone saw four fly out and head for Black Hole Marsh. I was out the door and down the reserve in moments - and moments later the calls of Bearded Tits could be heard from the platform.  A minute or two later along came a tram and up went the Bearded Tits, all four, although they soon dropped straight back into the reeds. Another minute or two later and up they went again, but this time stayed low and flew over Black Hole Marsh, and east over the tram line.

Bearded Tit really is a rare bird, these were only my second ever, with my first being equally brief. Many thanks Frase for this unexpected year tick.

With all the wind and rain, I had high hopes for today. And with the sea being quiet in recent days I decided to spend my morning in the valley. The weather meant Colyford hide was the most obvious choice - from here you get a good view over the flood water on Colyford Marsh and Colyford Common.

Flood!

My most painful dips this year have been with Garganey - I managed to miss three spring birds.  I thought I'd missed my chance with this species to be honest, but on Sunday noticed a few new birds had been reported in the UK. And guess what was with the first flock of Teal I looked at this morning...

At the back in front of that Lapwing

... a Garganey! My latest ever too. I can't tell you how happy I was to see this - and it instantly made looking through hundreds and hundreds of Teal this autumn worthwhile!

I spent another hour in the hide, and there were superb numbers of birds about (particularly ducks and gulls), but I couldn't find anything else better than an adult and first-winter Med Gull. Or maybe I did...

I picked up a darkish mantled gull in a distant and very large flock of mostly Great Black-backed Gulls. I thought it was going to be a Yellow-legged, but then it showed its legs, they looked pale pink!? It had a clean white head and looked otherwise ok for this species. Then the sodding thing turned and showed its head and bill in profile - it was at this point the shakes came over me as it looked a lot like an adult Caspian Gull!!! Stupidly the only camera I had was on my phone, so I got a few very poor pics this way, but when I put my eye back to the scope it wasn't there. And that's where this story ends, as I never saw it again. So gutted.  Anyway, for what it's worth, here's the 'best' pic...

Anyone care to comment?

I said early in this post how poor the sea has been, and it really has been. I don't just mean here, look at Portland Bird Obs website. We've had gale force southerly winds, with low after low coming through - but the totals have been pathetic! Where are the Sooties and Grey Phals?  Mid afternoon I thought I would give the sea another chance though - so headed down to the Spot On...

...and it was rubbish!  There was quite literally nothing passing, and after twenty minutes I decided to give up. Wandering back to the car, one last glance at the sea with my naked eyes gave me the shock of the year - SABINE'S GULL!!!  A juv Sabine's Gull was just there, flying west close in, its distinctive wing pattern immediately obvious. I grabbed a few record shots, but pleasingly it stopped flying west and joined some feeding Black-headed Gulls. I got the news out, then legged it down to the shore to take some more pics...



I know not everyone likes gulls - but come on...

 And here's a quick (and rubbish) video...



It stayed here for about ten minutes, then drifted further out and sat on the sea. A few minutes later it took off and flew west - and we last saw it about five minutes later towards Seaton Hole. Stunning, stonking, beautiful, elegant, buoyant.... I could go on and on. WHAT A BIRD!!! Look how dark the head is, the delicately forked tail with the black band, and don't get me started on that wing pattern....

Isn't it funny how one last glance at the sea turned this sea watch from dire to incredible. If I had walked back to my car the other way (the shorter way!) I simply wouldn't have seen it, and this Sab's would have been loitering out here without any of us knowing!  This was my second Sabine's here, and quite similar to my first - stupidly close in, and there was nothing else moving over the sea.

After this excitement I had another look up the valley. The Estuary was empty, but from the farm gate I was pleased to see lots of large gulls.  Sadly my Caspian-ish thing wasn't in amongst them, but two lovely adult Yellow-legged Gulls were. I then noticed a few gulls were starting to gather on the Estuary right in front of the Tower Hide, and in amongst them was yet another Yellow-legged Gull, this one a first-winter. Even at the distance it was, still very distinctive and proved its ID nicely by flying up and down a few times.  Later Gav and Tim saw this bird and took some great photos (click on their names to see the pics).  Also from the farm gate were six Ruff with the Lapwing.

What a day!!!
 

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