Friday, 26 March 2021

Spring Marches On

March doesn't usually produce proper birdie days, it's not until April comes around that we usually find ourselves fully immersed in spring passage.  But today bucked that trend with a brilliant few hours out this morning. 

With a strong south westerly wind and frequent rain showers the sea was my first port of call.  Phil had already given it a good hour before I made it out, and had scored our first Great Skua and six Manx Shearwaters of the year.  I got down to Spot On Kiosk at 07:40, joined by Phil shortly after, and spent an hour watching the waves. As March sea watches go it was certainly one of my best here, full totals (all west):

4 Red-throated Diver (1 east), 1 Long-tailed Duck (west at 08:15), 3 Common Scoter, 80+ Gannet, 24 Manx Shearwater, 48 Kittiwake, 2 Sandwich Tern and 5 Sand Martin (in/off).

Three new birds for the year in that lot, with Long-tailed Duck the absolute stand out bird - a true patch rarity.  My last here were two in Nov 2013, which stayed a few weeks feeding distantly in Seaton Bay, I'd then have to go back through another six years' worth of notebooks before finding another mention of Long-tailed Duck.  

Gav informed the local WhatsApp Group that he thought he'd seen one passing Cogden earlier in the morning although didn't get enough on it, but to be honest I hadn't given it much further thought.  Not because I don't rate Gav's birding abilities or his 'hunches', but because sea bird passage just doesn't make sense on the south coast of Dorset/Devon! Something flying past Seaton can be missed flying past Beer which is not much more than a mile away, so Gav's possible sighting 17 miles from where I was watching didn't fill me with much hope!  

That all changed at 08:15 however when four ducks came flying in low from the east - three Common Scoter being led by a smaller, slimmer and narrow-winged bird... it wasn't until it was roughly straight out that the ID became obvious, when it was close enough to make out even its face pattern, upperwing pattern (is there anything plainer than a Long-tailed Ducks upperwing mind!) and as it headed more west the distinctive dual white prongs running from tail tip up the sides of its lower back.  I reckon I could actually have grabbed some sort of photo of it, but I was just enjoying watching it too much... and then it was gone!  What a result, thanks again Gav and a moment I was delighted to share with Phil.

I would have seawatched for longer this morning, but heavy rain set in which saw me retreat to the Estuary (in the shelter of my car!).  There were heaps of gulls on show, and was pleased to see a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull dip-feeding off Coronation Corner.  A look over Bridge Marsh then revealed a new-in Little Ringed Plover with a back drop of up to thirty Sand Martins hawking low over the river valley.

I have a nice little tale to finish this post off with.  Remember the second-winter Caspian Gull that graced the Axe for several hours on the morning of 24th January, this one...

More pics and details HERE

Well it reappeared at Abbotsbury Swannery on 15th March - 52 days later!  See Joe Stockwell's blog post here:

I was already looking forward to April - but I am even more now!

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