Thursday, 26 April 2012

2 Meds do not a Summer Make

We had a very wet start to the morning, and first settled down in Marshland Hide.  There were plenty of Avocets & Black-headed Gulls.  All last weeks’ nests & eggs on the right-hand island appeared to have disappeared, and many on the island on the left seemed to have gravitated to the centre of the island. So something has gone wrong since last week.  We saw the odd duck such as Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, and a Snipe was flushed from the far side of the reeds & came across for most people to catch a view. 
We waited for the rain to ease off a little before trying out Xerox Hide. This was full of gulls, but with the odd Avocet, but the best sighting here was a brief view of a Green Sandpiper – incorrectly reported as a Common Sandpiper at the visitor centre.  The rain meant that plenty of Swallows & a few Swifts were brought low over the water in front of the hides
A more prolonged dry spell saw us striking out to Singleton.  There were plenty of Marsh Harriers on view here: some perched in the open and as it got drier more took to the air.  However, the marsh harriers were eclipsed for some by a reeling Grasshopper Warbler just outside the hide.  Some participants got a brief glimpse of the bird outside, as it slipped away through the thick vegetation.  Unfortunately, neither camera was able to obtain an image, so the accompanying picture is one of last year’s birds taken elsewhere.
A massive group of birdwatchers from the Age of Aquarius arrived so the rest of the morning was taken up with evasive action.  We did see one Sedge Warbler indulging in bouts of its song flights, but there were fewer heard than normal for the time of year & Reed Warblers were noticeable for their absence.  
In the afternoon we started off at Singleton to try & avoid the massive group and we were very successful at evading them.  Although all the main suspects were present again the afternoon had a distinctive flavour all of its own.  For a start it was dry for almost the whole period!  We failed to hear & see the Grasshopper Warbler or Green Sandpiper again, but Eric’s sighting of a raptor being mobbed by a crow revealed itself to be a Short-eared Owl.  Later, a Harrier turned into a very late female Hen Harrier, which was seen well by all participants.  Finally at Xerox, we managed to find a beautiful summer-plumaged Little Gull among all the Black-headed Gulls, and a handsomely-plumed Little Egret quietly fishing.  I was checking the Gulls when I saw one with a more thickset bill, and a hood, which stretched much further down the back of its neck – a Mediterranean Gull. I’m not sure I would have been able to recognise this species if my memory hadn’t been refreshed only yesterday by Richard Hampshire at Tophill Low.
Grasshopper Warbler [Spurn - last year]

 Little Gull [left]
 Mediterranean Gull [left]
 Marsh Harrier
 Little Egret
Record shot of Hen Harrier 
All remaining pictures (c) 2012 Richard Whateley 
Marsh Harrier

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