The morning group met at Hornsea Mere, and while there we saw a Black Swan chasing a Mute Swan just off shore. Keeping up the ‘plastic’ theme, through the telescope we could just make out a single drake Red-Crested Pochard with 2 females in the far distance. There were quite a number of bog standard Pochards, and Tufted Ducks and seemingly hundreds of Coots. Anthony spotted a single Common Tern on a buoy, which stayed long enough for everyone to get a decent view.
We shared cars to Aldbrough and parked at the designated car park – we seemed to be the only ones present. A Whitethroat was singing as soon as we opened the car doors, and House Martins were ‘farting’ around the farm buildings. We emerged from the farm drive and looking across the road there was no sign of the Roller on its accustomed post. Then we spotted some chaps at the top of the hill on the bend, who waved us towards them. We carefully negotiated the grassy verge punctuated with muddy & wet drainage slots. On the brow of the hill about 5 birders were lined up on the Roller which was perched in a small bare tree in the trees which surrounded the farmhouse. The bird had its back to us, so at that distance appeared mainly brown (although technically it has been described as cinnamon pink). However, it was preening itself and when it turned its head the remarkable blue colour could be glimpsed. There was a singing Skylark in the distance and then Brian spotted a Yellow Wagtail flying over the wheat. Sure enough there was a pair and another single male. Shortly afterwards Eileen saw a male Yellowhammers, while Swallows chased insects over the crop. Later, they were joined by a couple of Sand Martins. Once everyone had observed the Roller through the telescopes, as well as their own binoculars, and because the bird looked quite settled we shared cars to some woodland.
The Roller photographed a few days ago when it favoured the bare field (c) 2012 Vince Cowell
Red-Crested Pochard (c) 2012 Tony Robinson [photographed elsewhere]
At the woodland those who didn’t have a coffee break were rewarded by saw a pair of Buzzards soaring over the woodland, and a Sparrowhawk moved far more purposefully just over the canopy. In a ring of bushes we could hear a family of Long-tailed Tits, while a Reed Bunting perched briefly on the top. Then there was a distinctive ‘chupping’ sound as 11 Crossbills flew north. Only a few mintues later another was spotted at the top of a pine being bothered by a Pied Wagtail. 15 minutes later another pair were seen briefly feeding on the edge of a pine branch, but they soon flew towards the Mere. There was no sign of any of these Crossbills in the afternoon, but we did hear a distant Cuckoo while we were standing in the same place. The afternoon groups also had good views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding a much less colourful youngster. A distant Chiffchaff could be heard, as could the ‘raunchy’ cooing of a Stock Dove. Anthony glimpsed an Egyptian Goose back at the Mere at lunchtime, but it had hidden itself away before I’d had chance to set up the scope.
In the afternoon we went straight to Albrough. This time about 5 birders were scutinizing the tilled field, so it looked as though the Roller was much closer to the road. When we walked to the end of the drive we discovered we were mistaken and that the Roller hadn’t been seen for over an hour even by the 3 RSPB employees. Rather than stare at an empty field I crossed the road & walked partly up the hill & checked out the trees around the farm. The Roller wasn’t where it had been in the morning, but I could make out something blue in another tree. This time the bird was facing the watchers, so its stunning colour was more obvious. Everyone else came across, but despite my directions initially no one else was able to get on to the bird. As well as setting up my telescope I was then asked to lock on to the bird through the RSPB’s scope. Then everyone tried to see the bird through the telescope, and once they had done so, they also attempted to find it through their own binoculars, which proved rather tricky for some. Before everyone had had their turn looking through the scope a twitcher who had travelled some distance, insisted he should have a look, as he’d left his telescope in the car & was petrified that the bird may have flown away before he had retrieved it, and he may actually miss out on seeing the bird. My ‘student’ was too polite to tell him where to go, and he saw it through the scope before they did! We were watching the bird from the safety of the grass verge, but we were still photographed by a mad local person going past in a speeding car. Once everyone was satisfied with the views they had obtained we shared cars back to the Mere. The behaviour of the Roller seems to have altered. It doesn’t seem to be spending anywhere near as long feeding in the tilled field. I wonder if it’ll be leaving soon?
Sand Martin [left] & House Martin [right]
Unfortunately, the Red-Crested Pochard & Egyptian Goose were no longer in view, but there were several Great Crested Grebes present and a single Gadwall. The clouds had darkened and looked more threatening than in the morning & there was a resultant huge increase in the number of hirundines over the water. Numbers of House Martins & Sand Martins heavily outnumbered the swallows, and several unrelated Swifts flew just over our head, and one of them actually displayed its white chin.
The visit to the woodland was less eventful in the afternoon, an apart from the woodpecker already mentioned the best find was probably a Treecreeper, which was fairly confiding. We dipped our toes into the murky water of twitching, and everyone was happy to see the Roller, but I don’t think we’ll be making a habit of it! There was a bitty quality to the day, which was quite alien to the happily-established norm of an in-depth 2-hour session.
PS I’m not really sure if today’s events really qualifies as a dirty twitch – whatever one of those is!