Monday 10 September 2012

A Patch Tick And A Patch Record Count?

I nipped out most days last week, mostly to Black Hole and Colyford Marsh. I didn't manage the rare I was hoping for, but there was always plenty to see. On Tuesday amongst 40+ each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin were two Little Stints, with one still present up to today. Two Greenshank were around from Wednesday with my highest Snipe count of the autumn so far (13) and Thursday saw a new Ruff in and an increase in duck numbers with two Wigeon and 120+ Teal. But it was the weekend that it all kicked off...

Whilst Jess and I were enjoying a day out in Somerset, a couple of texts informed me of a pager report of a Spotted Crake from the tower hide. Phil soon confirmed it when shown photos, and then spent most of the afternoon searching for it. His patience was rewarded late afternoon when it reappeared for a brief period - this is when he took these photos of it. When Phil texted the news out, we were 20 minutes from home, and after a bit of persuasion I made Black Hole Marsh our first destination! We spent about 20 minutes in the hide, but there was no sign so we headed home. About half an hour later it was seen again. Drat!

The following morning, the first two alarms I had set didn't wake me up, but thankfully alarm number three did! I got to the tower hide at 06:40...

A tranquil scene

It wasn't a tranquil scene inside the hide though where three of us were waiting and hoping for a patch lifer! Thankfully (as I didn't have much time) there wasn't that much waiting, and anxiety soon became jubilation! The Spotted Crake appeared at about 06:45 in almost exactly the same place Phil last saw it last night. We watched it for the next fifteen or twenty minutes as it made its way up river along the bottom of the bank below the salt marsh opposite the hide.

I have made an extra special effort to look for this species on patch this autumn, but have to say, this was one place I hadn't been looking. It really was in an odd place, although I guess if the food is there then why not! As Spotted Crakes go, it wasn't the most spotted (as Phil's photos show) - but I loved its buff bum! Totally different from a Water Rail, a really obvious and distinctive feature.

Gav and Karen both mentioned on their blogs that the light was so poor that they didn't even bother taking a photo. Not me...

A stunning and pin sharp photo of my first Spotted Crake on the Axe. Prints can be purchased.

The rest of Sunday I was at work, and Monday (today) I had put aside for a day of laptop work. The temptation to go out got too strong though mid morning when Martin Cade at Portland tweeted they had just had their 100th Balearic Shearwater of the day past the Bill!

I was down the sea front at 10:10, and by 11:40 had seen an impressive 71 Balearic Shearwaters! Some came through as loners, but most were in small flocks with the biggest single flock being of 13 birds, all flew west. I had a further 13 Shearwater sp. fly west at mega distance - too distant to ID. Otherwise there was not much else passing, just six Common Scoter and two Manxies.

Although 71 Balearics isn't a patch record, I am hoping other patch birders were watching the sea at different times and are able to add to this tally. I just wish I had started sea watching at dawn though - we could well have had over 200 through today I reckon. That would easily be a patch record!

Oh I see there's a Pec at Bowling Green, I wonder if I have enough time to check out Black Hole Marsh before Jess finishes work...


  1. That fine photo of a Spotted Crake looks so like the Otter Estuary! - I have been looking for 2 weeks now with no joy. Please send it over!

  2. Hey Chris. Well if it is anything like this one - it won't be where you think it will be. I'd be checking under the boats on the beach or something!!