Friday, May 21, 2010

Misty May Morning...

SO, inspired somewhat by yesterday's Knot (score!) thoughts turned to waders yet again. According to BirdMap there were sprinklings of Sanderling moving through the UK inland and according to The Beeb, the weather looked good for an early morning start. Settled then - Halfway House, as early as I can get there and try to get in a couple hours before work.

05:30 - Wake up and look out of the window. Mist? There was no mention of mist! Mind you... could be good, hold things down until I get there!!

06:15 - Arrive at HWH. Yep. Mist. Lots of mist! I can just make out a muddy spit to my left on the far side of the river, the near shore to my right and the bank in front of Cuerdley Marsh on the other side of the river. This could be interesting. Unpacking my stuff and catch movement on the spit - 2 Shelduck and 5 small waders running around! Quickly get scope up... and they are... 5 Shelduck ducklings! First brood of the year for me, but not the hoped for Dunlin.

06:20 - 1st scan of the 'river', such that it is. Apart from the Shelduck family left, there are 20 adults on the shore to my right with 2 juvenile Grey Herons and 5 Mallards. 2 Magpie are striding about above the tide line and I can just make out the silhouettes of 3 Canada Geese and 2 Tufties on the water in the mist. The resident Reed Warbler is crunching away in the reeds in front of me and over the river a Grasshopper Warbler is reeling. Willow Warbler and Wren singing behind me.

06:33 - Mute Swan just snorted on the ship canal behind me and there's a Great Crested Grebe calling there. A Grey Heron barks somewhere in the mist, a Canada Goose honks overhead and a pair of Shelduck whistle nearby. Sedge Warbler, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird have joined the other early morning songsters and a Cormorant, Lapwing and Carrion Crow wing their respective ways silently through the gloom.

06:46 - Greenfinch and Song Thrush have joined the chorus and a Pheasant coughs in the distance somewhere on Norton Marsh. 2 Stock Dove fly in and land briefly on the strand line before vanishing into the mist and 4 Canada Geese are marching to the river, necks stretched out, honking excitedly. I can hear one of the big dumper trucks trundling along the bund by Fiddler's Ferry. It's pin-drop calm. You could hear a moth breathing.

07:00 - Still misty. Blackcap singing in the distance, Reed Bunting close in. There's a Great Tit calling behind me and a Coot doing the same on the ship canal. First gulls of the day start up. Black-headed Gull calling left, Great Black-backed Gull right - I can see neither. Oystercatcher... keebeeks... and briefly emerges from the grey as it tanks down river.

07:15 - Herring Gull doing its 'seaside rooftops' wake-up call away right and 2 Long-tailed Tits are 'see-see-seeing' in the tree by me. Whitethroat alarm call. Chaffinch. Another Grey Heron swoops in right, does its bouncy landing, wings raised and then immediately assumes its hunched stalking position which seems to annoy the BHG that's just dropped in on the waters edge. Sun trying (and failing) to breakthrough now. Mute Swan throbbing wingbeats unseen over head, more braying from the GC Grebe, whilstles and chasing from the Shelduck, two car horns, the reversing beep... beep... beep of the Fiddler's trucks, first aircraft of the day over, distant voices, crocodile floating down river (OK... log).

07:36 - Can no longer see Cuerdley bank - the mist has descended further - meh. Just ears for the next half an hour. I add Goldfinch, 2 Bullfinch and 2 Swallows to the morning's tally while I ponder on what might be out there feeding on the mud. Lift dammit!!!

08:08 - Aha! Patience rewarded? Slowly clearing I think. Can see more of the waters edge now... 1, 2, 3... 14 Black-headed Gull... some mud. The tide's starting to drop more.

08:24 - 2 hirundines fast and low over the water toward me. Hang on... waders! Dropped in on mud behind the reeds. Can't see from here. Sneak around the reeds and gingerly stick my head up to see the muddy margin where the bank drops away. Dunlin! Two cracking summer birds. Head back to my fezzi chair, perched on the rise overlooking the river and wait for them to work their way out into the open. Minutes later they emerge, working right as the mist finally starts to lift. Scope them for 10 minutes whilst the mist clears. Gorgeous rufous uppers, black bellies. Yes. I am excited about Dunlin. These could well be my *ONLY Dunlin of 2010 - lol. That's what comes from patching. Contentment. Appreciation of the simple things in birding life :-)

08:45 - Mist now cleared from the river and I can do a proper scope scan of the mud. 6 Sand Martins buzzing by. Trouble is, I'm not that sure that I want to take my scope off the Dunlin in case they fly. Ah well, they look fairly settled - here goes. Gulls. Shelduck. Gulls. Wader. Wader! Reddish speckled head and upper breast, clean white underparts, spangly black brown upperparts - summer Sanderling! Oh yes!!! Ha! Think I actually chuckled to myself at this point.

Knot AND Sanderling in the space of two days. AND I'd forgotten that I needed Dunlin. Damn I love this lil bend in the river!!!

* As it turned out these two cracking little schinzii were NOT my only Dunlin of 2010 (see 'Not a bad June day at all...')

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