Saturday, October 30, 2010

A spinoletta...

Treated myself to a couple of patch hours yesterday with two things in mind. First was to try to relocate the Firecrest from the day before and the second was to troll along the river at the east end to look for Goosander - a patch year tick. As I drove to my usual parking spot near the balck and yellow metal gate it became quickly apparent that the windy conditions were going to create a few problems. Out of the car and... ummmm... correction; a LOT of problems. Branches were in  motion (so trying to spot small birds moving among them was pretty hopeless) and the sounds of the leaves rustling drowned out all but the loudest calls, so trying to pick up the 'si-si-si-si' of crests and distinguish the slightly fatter Firecrest call from the thinner Goldies, impossible. Did get on a few Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits in the relative calm of the dingly dells where people ride their bikes in The Plantation, but no Firecrest. At the actual site of the previous days encounter with my firey little chum there was nothing except an insistent Willow Tit 'durr-durr-durr'-ing in the thick Hawthorn stand opposite the big oak. Ah well, maybe if I hit the north side I'll find shelter...

Answer? Not really. had a quick look at The Garden near the feeding station (usually a good spot for winter crests) but the wind was in there too. So, I bit the bullet and opted for an earlier than planned river yompet for Goosander. Quick detour to Pumphouse Pool en route yielded only a mess of gulls and a quick scope trawl through them threw up nothing much of note except for the half dozen or so Common Gulls among the usual Black-headed and LBBG suspects. SO, parked at the far end by the electricity substation and nipped across the road to the railway bridge from where you can get a view up and down river. A bit slippy today... and dead. Now't to see. Emerged from the bankside vegetation to see Mully unpacking his kit from the boot of his Renault. Well bugger me! Great minds or what. Quick chat and Mike heads for Firecrest Alley for a mooch and I head off along the Trans-Pennine Way to the big road bridge over the river. Nothing from there either. No Goosander today... meh :s

What to do? Well, for some reason I decided to take a shortcut along the east edge of the Black Fields. Thoughts were of Great Grey Shrike. I often picture them here, perched atop one of the scrubby bushes. One day... Plan was to skirt along the north bank of of Firecrest Alley and have a look at the new scraping on Black Fields (the north bank runs along its southerly edge). The scrape is a fairly flat cleared area of mud with small pools formed mostly from the tire tracks of the big trucks that worked the site. There's not much vegetation there at all yet, but there is a greenish sheen in the middle where something is behginning to colonise the bare mud. Pied Wagtail and then something running along the margin of one of the pools out of the corner of my eye. First thought was of small brown wader but bins up and it's a large pipit. Thing that strikes me immediately are the two whitish wing bars and very pronounced whitish supercilium... almost Redwing-ingly striking. Cold mud brown uppers, longish tail, pure white beneath, clear black streaking on breast, dark legs, longish bill with pale base all shout WATER PIPIT. Now if you've read my previous posts you'll be aware that I had one of these turned down the other year as my description didn't rule out littoralis Rock Pipit. No such problem today as its pure white outer tail feathers were clearly visible when it flew and the colour of its back and head and clarity of the underparts left me in no doubt at all. Quick phone call to Mully and 5 minutes (whilst I kept my bins firmly on it) later we were both on it. Little beauty. Flew off towards Millbrook Pool calling and showing us again its white outer tail feathers and double wingbars as it went. Bloody marvellous and year tick 137 for the patch! Happy Days :)

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