Saturday, August 21, 2010
Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part I
Day 4 and it's an early morning start today. Plan is to stake out Halfway House first thing then do the east end for drop-ins and Upper Moss Side for owls tonight. So, 7am I drop the lad at work and head straight to Bob's Bridge and park up. Very quiet as I do the familiar yomplet along the ship canal... just a solitary Chiffchaff singing.
Halfway House 07:30
It's warm, there's a slight breeze and it's pin-drop quiet. Common Sandpiper calling to my left (good start!) as I unfurl the fezzie chair and set up. Pour a coffee and it's the first scan of the day with my bins. Lots of gulls and lots of Lapwing... it usually starts like this. 65 Gadwall flying over is the biggest count here for a while as a Ringed Plover calls somewhere and I spot 4 Little Egrets feeding close in to the bank far right. VERY good start! Lapwing numbers are less than half yesterday's record count, just 939 this morning and it's a similar story as far as the Lesser Black-backeds - 700 compared to over 2000 yesterday. Black-headed Gull numbers conversely are twice as high as yesterday (736) and there are more Herring Gulls about too... I count 26 among the LBBGs. 4 Great Black-backeds is also a higher than of late count. Other stuff... 6 Grey Heron, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 4 Mallard, 103 Canada Goose, 26 Shelduck.
08:14 and an orange 'rowboat' with an outboard has appeared upriver. There are 2 blokes in it. Looks like they're doing some kind of survey as the guy steering is holding what looks like a piece of scientific kit maybe. They chug quietly downstream. This could actually be quite useful! Who knows what's tucked in along the banks that they'll disturb as they wind their way downstream. Answer: 3 Redshank! Thought I half heard one earlier. Nice. Funny things patches. I love the way that nothing-of-any-note birds become elevated to excellent tick status simply by turning up unexpectedly. I mean where else but on a patch would a Redshank be worthy of comment? I remember a good few years back Steve White telling me that Great Tit was patch twitch-worthy at Seaforth. Ya godda luvvit. The boat chugs on. 2 waders low over the water in front of it... 2 Common Sandpipers (nice) and the Ringed Plover is calling again... insistently this time and the sound is tracking right. Pick it up in flight and watch it land on the mud. Cool.
08:42 another 'routine' scan of the Lapwing flock picks up 8 small waders. Where the hell had THEY come from? This is SO typical of Halfway House - stuff just drops in unseen - brilliant. Scope on them and... well, well, well... first juvenile Dunlin of the year! Bloody marvellous. They stay for 10 minutes and then fly off downriver. 2 Sparrowhawks have also appeared and are soaring overhead in the sunshine. Hmmm Crows. I suddenly notice there are lots of Crows out there on the mud. There'd only been 3 or 4 earlier and now there are 61 with a dozen or so Jackdaw mixed in. See? They snuck in too. It's always a state of flux here. And there are Starlings too... 33 among the Lapwing... and something else. Reddish looking wader, head under wing. Well it's definitely a Godwit, but which one? I'm hoping for Bar-tailed, but my brain already knows the legs are too long. That said, I still manage to hang on to the possibility for a few minutes before the bird lifts its head and shows off that long bill and then flutters away left a few feet, flashing its white wing bars. Cracking fresh juvenile Black-tailed Godwit (no colour rings Matt!).
Ringed Plover flies past again calling, followed by the only Curlew of the morning. This is brilliant. Patching at its best. I've lost count of how many days like this I've had at Halfway House. Dead as a doornail most of the time, then a little burst of good birds. THE place to be on the patch this morning for sure as a call from a fellow patcher confirms. "East end very quiet. Female Garganey still there though and a Green Sandpiper." Worth a quick look though I decide before I head home for curry. Pick up 3 Swallows, 1 House Martin and 7 Sand Martins mobbing a Sparrowhawk as a Raven flies by... nice little montage moment that :) Not seen any martins recently either. Good stuff.
Pumphouse Pool 10:30
Yep. There she is... female Garganey (4th consecutive day) and 1...2...3... Green Sandpiper. Looking forward to this evening's stint now... pun intended ;)