Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Ruff Patch Terns Good...

Early morning and I finally manage to hit the patch and head straight for the river at Halfway House. Why? Because things have been hotting up there of late (see previous entries) and I've missed some very good birds. Somewhat of a rough patch you might say. News that the Great Skua was seen again on wet Sunday meant I was fairly optimistic about today's prospects. Not that I thought for one minute that it would still be around (lull in the weather + a day to reorientate = likely to have headed back to the coast), but it, together with the other recent patch goodies meant things were moving through. Couple that with a rising tide and a bit of a southerly to hold things up maybe and things seemed promising.

First week of October is also traditionally pretty bang on for Yellow-browed Warbler and so my speedy yomp to the river was frequently punctuated by the straining of ears for that tell-tale 'tsweest'. Alas, just the 'tipping' of Robins, the coversational 'sri-sri-sri' of Long-tailed Tits and the soft 'tu' of Bullfinches were the only sounds en route to my throne astride the bank by the willow. Even before I'd unfurled my green fezzie chair it was obvious there'd be no skua action today - too many relaxed gulls and Lapwing out on the mud. No surprise there then.

First job was to set about counting the small groups of things before the rather longer task of totting up the Lapwings and gulls. " Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron, 6 Cormorant, 25 Canada Geese, 21 Mallard, 2 Gadwall and 9 Curlew. Overhead 2 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Meadow Pipit, 2 Greenfinch and 3 Pied Wagtails. SO, to the Lapwing. I keep a tally using my fingers these days since I discovered my 'clicker' was sticking and spooling over to 1000 when I got to 100 - doh! Takes longer, but at least it's pretty accurate. Today on the mud there were 863 Lapwing and with them 2 Golden Plover. Woot! Another year tick (missed them in the first winter period). Next up the gulls on the mudflats. Black-headed Gulls first... 100... 200... 300... Huh? THAT is not a gull. Tern! Fleeting thoughts (hopes?) of Black Tern are quickly put into perspective with a quick twist of the x60 - Common Tern. Excellent. Had my first tern species on the patch from this same spot in the spring and that too had been a Common Tern. Picking up one today though was totally unexpected. Happy days! Continue the BHG count (c1100) as the tern gets  up and drifts away towards the Manchester Ship Canal calling.

A couple of quick texts to local patchers and attention turns to the remaining gulls. Hang on, there are more Lapwing... numbers up to 1300 AND there are more Golden Plover among  them - 34 in total, one or two still with the last vestiges of black summer bellies. Quick double check of the goldies reassures me that I've not missed a yank tucked away... well, you never know! Back to the gulls. Looks like Herring Gull and Common Gull numbers are up and LBBGs down, but I have no time to count them as my eye is drawn to three birds jinking away from me in front of the Fiddler's Ferry cooling towers. They don't look like gulls either. Flight too bouyant. Turn dammit! Tern dammit!! Three of them. They wheel around obligingly and settle on the mud where the first bird had landed some 15 minutes ago. Scope up and... yip... 3 more Common Terns! OR, could be the first bird I guess, plus two chums... so maybe just 2 'more'... technically. Either way this is splendid patchery and an excellent record.

Hold on, gulls and plovers up. Raptor? Nope. Skua?? Nope!! Tide. I had lost track of time and the tide had swept in suddenly (as it's proned to do) pushing things off. Wader up from the far shore. Redshank? Low over the water. Purposeful flight. No white trailing edge. What is... Can't get scope on it. Closer. Bins. Bugger me - Ruff!!! Now THAT is a great bird.

There was one about the other day that I missed, but I'd assumed it was just moving through. No idea if this is the same one hanging about or if it is another bird. Truth be told, I care not. Ruff. RUFF! Big grins. Patch year list now up to 131. I've said it before... and I'll say it again... I LOVE this little bend in the river :)


  1. Its always nice to get a Ruff - not yer average wader. Great pic too.

  2. Had a Ruff infest at Neumann's this passed couple of weeks. With Grey Plover popping in last Sunday the Year List is on 137...I would say thats it (although I still need Bittern).
    As for 140 mmmm? keep on bending my friend.

  3. I guess now it's gone up to 138 - I hear you've a Pec Sand there today. And there was me thinking I might still catch ya ;) Now Grey Plover on the other hand IS I think getable. Still adding a few species here and there. On 133 this morning after adding Pinkfoot and a surprise Cetti's.