Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Frightfully "Common" Migrants

Spotted Flycatcher (c) 2009 Marcus Conway
For more brilliant pics, please see http://www.ebirder.net/
Photographed at the same site yesterday
Whinchat (c) 2009 David Ware
Whinchat - wind assisted!
Flava Wagtail (c) 2009 David Ware
Common Darter
I didn’t have high hopes for today’s 1st migrant special because of the strong westerlies we’ve been enduring for several days. However, ebirder’s, visit yesterday indicated that there should have been some interesting species to see, as long as they hadn’t cleared out overnight. We shared cars to Sammy’s Point. At least it was a warm wind! It was pretty strong, so we headed into the bushes earlier than normal to avoid the blast on the Humber bank. We did spot some Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Shelduck and a single Golden Plover before we abandoned the riverside. In the relative shelter of the hawthorns and the elder we had good views of at least 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of bog standard Whitethroats, and a handful of lemon-coloured young Willow Warblers. We flushed a Snipe from one field, and later another wisp of 4 flew over. Another flyover was a Yellow Wagtail species – we tried to relocate this later without success. In the fields with the horses there were plenty of fairly confiding Wheatears, and several less obliging Whinchats. A clamber back into the “gale” resulted in a pair of Whimbrel flushed from close to the Humber Bank. The butterfly numbers were down compared to recent visits, but we did see Painted Ladies, Common Blues, Small Tortoiseshells and assorted whites. We tried the Crown & Anchor car park where a Pied Flycatcher had been reported earlier in the morning, but without success. We headed back to the Blue Bell where we snatched lunch before walking on to Canal Scrape. Here there were a pair of swans, and a Dunlin flew in briefly, as did another Snipe. However, the highlight from this hide were a pair of Whinchat which occasionally gave good views as they landed on posts near the grazing sheep. Whinchats were ‘lifers’ for some on the session; whilst others had the best views they’ve ever enjoyed of this species. Spotted Flycatchers were also new to some people on the course. This just underlines how scarce they have become in recent years. I grew up with them nesting nearby, but it’s probably 15 years ago now since we lost them as a breeding species. For those wanting to read more about the tragic loss of many of our once common trans-Saharan migrants, I can heartily recommend Michael McCarthy’s new book, Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo. It was great to finally positively ID the strange pink heather-like plant (no relative really) as Red Bartsia - thanks to Meg, Sonia & Val!

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