Saturday, 25 May 2013

Spitting Feathers! (Nearly)

Gales and heavy showers were forecast for Friday, so we had to reluctantly drop our visit to our planned visit to a new Friday location and revert to Tophill Low instead. The wind may not have been actual gale force, but it was extremely strong, but luckily although we drove through rain to Tophill, it ceased before the session started, so we were able to remain dry throughout the day.
All photos (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
Great Crested Grebe
On the recommendation of the warden we headed south and were awestruck by the sight which greeted us by more than a thousand hirundines and Swifts feeding low in the lee of the trees surrounding the northern edge of 'O' reservoir. All 3 species of hirundine were represented with higher numbers of Sand Martin and Swallows in the morning, and very few House Martins. However, this changed through the day as numbers of House Martins were much higher after lunch. As we walked round the north edge of the reservoir in the afternoon I warned everyone to keep their mouths closed as House Martins whizzed so close to our faces. The unspoken comment being that if these aerial experts just strayed a few inches, then we'd be literally spitting feathers. The only birds actually on the reservoir were a pair of Great Crested Grebes.
The drainage on South Marsh East meant that we didn't locate a single bird here, but South Marsh West was much more rewarding. Here, the area in front of the hide was quite sheltered, so the group were able to enjoy good, if fairly brief views of both Sedge and Reed Warblers. A drake Pochard, and a pair of Tufted Ducks appeared to be the only birds on the water apart from some distant Mute Swans, which actually came to visit the pm crowd. Both groups also saw fly through Common Terns, with 3 in the morning and a single in the afternoon.
Wigeon (front) & Gadwall (above)

We carried on to Watton Borrow Pits were the jewels in the crown were on display. The rarest bird present was a Temminck's Stint. These waders are tiny, so most people could hardly discern this bird at all, but it was present the whole time, so everyone got to see its darkly dappled back through the telescope. There was also a pair of Common Sandpipers here. A few more birds had dropped in during the afternoon, including 2 first-summer Little Gulls, and several Cormorants, as well as a scattering of ducks: Gadwall, Pochard, and Tufted Ducks. Low down on the wooded island some white feathers could be glimpsed, and the extent of the feathers led to the suggestion that this partly hidden bird was probably a Little Egret. 

Record shot of Common Sandpiper
 Record Shot of Temminck's Stint
 Record Shot of Temminck's Stint
Despite the windy conditions a couple of Willow Warblers were in full song throughout the reserve, as was a Blackcap and the Reed and Sedge Warblers, but the numbers of passerines seen was quite low, although a pair of Yellow Wagtail flushed as I left on the approach road was a nice ending. However, a large regret was being unable to find the first-summer Pied Flycatcher found in South Scrub by the gents of Yorkshire Coast Nature. That is a site rarity, and hardly ever seen in its black-and-white finery in East Yorkshire. They informed me exactly where to look, but by the time we reached the bush after 3pm, it seemed to have moved on. 
Although it wasn't an absolutely classic spring visit to Tophill Low, it was a lot better than may have been expected in such adverse conditions, and a big improvement than we would have encountered at an unsheltered site. 
Tufted Ducks

No comments: