Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A Little Bit Of Everything...

This post really does have a bit of everything. Birds, insects, patch birding, patch twitching, a patch MEGA that wasn't, off-patch twitching, off-patch surveying.... Sit back ladies and gents and enjoy this mammoth post...


During the afternoon I gave Lower Bruckland Ponds a good look about. Odonata were out in force and included four mature male Red-veined Darters, one mature male Scarce Chaser, eight Red-eyed Damselflies and four Beautiful Demoiselles. Plenty of butterflies here too, including both Large and Small Skippers. Three Hobbies gave fantastic views as they fed very low over the ponds and regularly rested up in adjacent trees.

I then nipped down alongside the Axe by the A3052. Two more Scarce Chasers here, loads of Banded Demoiselles and even more of these...

White-legged Damselfly

Happy that I'd paid enough attention to the local sites for an off-patch jaunt, I started heading north towards Somerset. I stopped off at James McCarthy's house, ate a very yummy plate-full of roast, then at 17:00 headed for Ashcott Corner with James as company....very good company too : ) We arrived here at 18:00.

We headed towards Walton Heath, and thanks to Brett* we were guided to the exact spot the Little Bittern had been seen, about 30 people were assembled here. We almost immediately heard it calling - or barking I should say - from the mass of reeds in front of us.

After 40 or so minutes there was no sign despite regular calling, then a shout of "I can see it's bill" went up from a couple of birders standing a little further down the track. James and I are obviously rubbish twitchers, because we just kept looking into the reeds from where we were stood, where as everyone else literally stampeded past us towards the poor guy who had just glimpsed it! We did right though, as pretty soon after we had brilliant views of this stunning adult male Little Bittern! It was sat up clinging on to a clump of reeds, what a top bird.

It was actually quite close, and showed well as it stayed in this position for about 20 minutes! It was behind a fair few reeds so there was always a part of the bird obscured, but I moved postion several times and every part of the bird could be seen in the end. Watching it call was fantastic, it's bill didn't move but the whole bird shuddered each time it called! After 20 mins it took off, and gave a superb flight view as it flew down a channel of water then glided back in to the reed bed.

I really wasn't expecting the excellent views we had, to study it through the scope for so long was a real treat. So, where are all the stunning photos? Well as it remained in the reed bed the auto focus just would not focus on the bird. The most in focus photos I got were just before it took off, but as I said, not all of the bird was in view....

Little Bittern.... most of one anyway!

We saw plenty of other goodies here too. Two Black Terns were very entertaining to watch, as was a not so little Bittern. We also clocked up a few Hobbies, two Cuckoos , a Barn Owl and a nice selection of various ducks and warblers. What a great place!

* I'm VERY glad we bumped into this chap, a Weymouth-based birder. Interrogations by James and myself soon revealed Brett to be the man who first found the Cory's Shearwater in May that flew past here, but we didn't hold that against him. Phone numbers have been exchanged so when he gets his Fea's zooming past west we can all cash in on it, or vica versa of course! Of interest, he also saw the adult Long-tailed Skua which blew me away a couple of springs ago, we knew it had been in Chesil Cove during the afternoon but he saw it flying west from his patch heading right for us from the cove.


I got up early and headed off to Somerset to carry out one of my surveys, it's about a 50 minute drive from home. It was going OK, I'd seen a couple of Tree Pipits and a Redpoll. All good stuff really.

I received a text about half way round informing me of a Little Stint on Blackhole Marsh, this would be a patch year tick for me, so it put a slight dampener of the morning....but only slight. About half hour later my phone rings.....the Little Stint is now a Baird's Sand. WOW!

My reaction to this was totally different to the reaction I gave to the Little Stint. I broke out in a sprint, jumped in my car and drove from here to home quicker than ever...although every slow driver in Devon seemed to be in front of me, why does that always happen?

Arrived at Blackhole Marsh at about 11:15, great it's still there. I've never seen an adult Baird's before, so it's long appearance had me fooled. I didn't have a foggiest what it's plumage should be. Anyway, I fired off several pictures and went home very happy.

When I got home, I fired up the laptop and pretty soon had that sinking feeling... No Baird's ever photographed in the world looked like this one! Serious doubts were creeping in so I had to post some photos on Birdforum for others to look at....and the 'that's a nice summer plumage Little Stint' replies came in thick and fast. Here's a couple of pics of it anyway....

Lovely Little Stint!

Well what a couple of days. As I said, a little bit of everything! I'm sure the rest of the summer won't be this exciting...

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