Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Napoleon's return

9 July 2016

Oare Marshes, Kent

After a morning working on Mac's new website I drove over to Oare Marshes for the afternoon. I arrived about an hour before high tide and watched the Black-tailed Godwit numbers steadily building as birds arrived from the tidal Swale.

Roosting Black-tailed Godwit
The Bonaparte's Gull had been seen yesterday afternoon, having returned for its fourth summer in a row. I was surprised to find only three other birders and they'd already located it bathing in the water just off the road among Godwits and Black-headed Gulls.

The Bonaparte's Gull sits surrounded by Black-tailed Godwits and Black-headed Gulls. Note the much
blacker head of the slighter Bonaparte's
iPhone-scoped through the Swarovski scope

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening around the flood. A moulting Spotted Redshank appeared on the island among the Common Redshanks before moving to the SE corner to feed. A single Turnstone and 5 Whimbrel (4 flew over and 1 in roost), 1 Dunlin 1 Ruff and 2 Green Sandpiper were the wader highlights. The supporting cast was made up of 80 Redshank, about 700 Black-tailed Godwit and 100 Avocet. Other birds seen on the flood included 2 Common Tern, 100 Black-headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull. Three 
Yellow Wagtail were nice to see including a bird carrying food to an unseen nest. A Whitethroat, 1 Reed Warbler, 50 Sand Martin, Swallow, 15 Swift and 3 Marsh Harrier were also seen. 

The highlight was, as always, the brilliant Black-tailed Godwits. Seen in numbers in their beautiful rusty summer plumage they make a stunning sight.

I can't get enough of that Great Knot

2 July 2016 

Titchwell, Norfolk

Drove over to Gore Point at Holme but only walked a few metres before being told there were no Knot on the beach. I tried the golf course path to the beach but could find just a dozen Sanderling, and a couple of Grey Partridge on the golf course. I decided to drive back to Titchwell and walked along the path past the freshmarsh. A large group of roosting Knot was huddled on the island in the middle, the displaying male and a female Ruff, and a few Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet were roosting. I scanned the flock and quickly decided the Great Knot was not present. As other birders were looking here I walked down to the beach and looked up to the buoy. A small pack of about 20 Knot were roosting right at the end and with nothing much else around and nothing to lose I set out towards them. Half way I checked the flock with my scope and there right in the front was the summer plumaged Great Knot. I walked slowly closer, though a group of roosting Oystercatcher meant I had to be careful. With the sun right  in my eyes I had to carefully walk beyond the flock trying not to disturb anything from the beach. I managed a few phone scoped shots despite the harsh light.

Great Knot

I was getting great views but a closer Oystercatcher suddenly spooked the flock. Fortunately they circled around and landed back on the point as the tide dropped. I carefully manoeuvred around to get better light and tweeted a message.  As the first birders arrived we got better views. It showed well before the flock flew towards the freshmarsh for no apparent reason. 

An Oystercatcher spooks the Knot flock

The Great Knot in the middle of the picture - larger, bold white rump
The Great Knot far right leads the flock back to the freshmarsh
A Hummingbird Hawkmoth sunning itself along the path
Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Barn Swallow

We walked back to the marsh and found the Great Knot at the front of the pack. It showed well before retreating back into the flock to roost. Half a dozen Dunlin, 30 Bar-tailed Godwits and 60 Black-tailed Godwits came in. Two Spotted Redshank and a flyover Spoonbill also of note. Two Marsh Harrier, the still booming Bittern and several flocks of Bearded Tits around the edge of the reed bed added to the spectacle.  

We nearly got a soaking on an afternoon stroll

3 July 2016 

Titchwell and Wells

Back to Titchwell first thing. Just six Knot on the freshmarsh including two injured birds. Also the first Turnstone of the Autumn and 12 Dunlin. The Bittern was booming and Bearded Tits in the reedbed. Two Spotted Redshank on the freshmarsh. Suddenly a flock of 200 Knot flew in. A quick scan confirmed they were alone. However shortly after a huge flock of several thousand arrived in a cloud. I soon located the Great Knot in the middle of the flock and enjoyed more views. A couple of Little-ringed Plover were flying around the marsh. Eventually I left the flock and returned home. A bike ride around Wells and Holkham produced a singing Grasshopper Warbler along the coastal road/railway. 

Cycling one of the excellent trails behind Wells
The road home
In the evening we returned to Titchwell.  The Knot flock remained on the freshmarsh, and gradually gave better and better views. There were also 25 Dunlin, the Turnstone, 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and 100 Black-tailed Godwits. A 1w Little Gull was on the posts and islands. No amount of scanning could locate the Great Knot and we left without seeing it.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Great Knot, Dutch shanks and a horny Ruff

25 June 2016 

Titchwell, Norfolk

With an early high tide I was up at the crack of dawn and on my way to Titchwell. The roads early morning in Norfolk are a challenging drive, trying to avoid the many birds and mammals intent on sitting in your path. My route today was complicated by 155 Wood Pigeon, 5 Collared Dove, 3 Grey Wagtail, 2 Blackbird, a Pheasant, 3 Brown Hares, 2 Rabbits and a Muntjac Deer. Fortunately with care I avoided all of them and arrived safely just after 05:00. The car park was already surprisingly full of about 20 vehicles - so much for some quiet birding. I walked out along the raised bank hearing Blackcap, Reed and Sedge Warblers. A Cuckoo was calling on the marsh. With the tide rising waders were beginning to arrive on the Freshmarsh. Black and Bar-tailed Godwits were joined by a small group of Knot, and a couple of Dunlin. Two first summer Little Gulls were sitting on the predator fence and three Mediterranean Gulls were noisily flying around the colony. As the tide rose a few more Knot flew in and a presumed first-summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit presented an odd plumage. Two of the three Ruffs were starting to moult, but one rather excitable bird was in full resplendent summer dress and was intent on showing off to the two Reeves. 

Presumed first summer Bar-tailed Godwit
Displaying Ruff

Two Little-ringed Plover and 8 Spotted Redshank added interest and an adult Spoonbill flew in. The booming Bittern continued to call throughout and several small parties of Bearded Tit moved through the reeds. Swifts and House Martins flew over the pools. A couple of juvenile Marsh Harrier were sitting in the dead trees and two adults flew around the reedbed. I wandered down to the beach where a Whimbrel flew past. As I watched it heading towards Thornham I picked up an odd silhouette coming towards me, grabbed the scope and was a little surprised to see a pale-phase Arctic Skua approaching. 

Arctic Skua
It flew around the salt marsh giving good views then circled high into the sky to the east. About five minutes later as I chatted to Alan and Brenda Fossey the skua came back around from the sea and back towards Thornham. Presumably a failed breeder. I returned to the hide where a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit stood on one leg - the same bird as last week with the red over green combination, but it just would not show its other leg. I walked back to the visitor centre and enjoyed some light breakfast with Alan and Brenda, catching up with them for half an hour. In the evening I returned to Titchwell with Mac, seeing a similar mix of birds, though the highlight was a Dutch-ringed Spotted Redshank very close to the path. 

Spotted Redshank

We watched it for some time, then wandered down to the sea where a small group of Knot were feeding on the rocks. Presumably the same flock flew in to the freshmarsh briefly before we left. 

26 June 2016 


Turtle Dove, Holme
Up early again, but this time down to Holme. A superb Turtle Dove greeted me in the car park, giving superb views as it purred from a small elder tree. I walked out to Gore Point where a group of 10 birders were watching the Great Knot feeding on some just exposed rocks. I arrived in time as the tide started to cause the Knots to fly to the beach. It gave superb views before the tide covered the rocks and it joined the 3,000 Red Knot on the beach. 

The summer plumaged Great Knot, Gore Point, Holme

The Great Knot joins the thousands of Red Knot on the beach
It continued to give good views until the flock became cut off by the tide and flew east towards Titchwell. 

The Knot flock takes flight as the tide rises
The Great Knot picked out in the flock

I drove down to the reserve and hurried out to the freshmarsh. Just as I arrived a small group if Knot flew in. I walked towards the Parinder Hide just as a cloud of Red Knot flew in. I rushed into the hide and scanned the flock - no Great Knot. I scanned again and again as other birders arrived. It wasn't there, nor in the next flock that arrived. I watched a similar cast as yesterday, including the first summer Bar-tailed Godwit and the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit, which eventually revealed its hidden leg - also red over green. Eight Spotted Redshank were spread around the marsh, the Bittern continued to call infrequently and three Cuckoos were seen.

The male Ruff displayed tirelessly and unsuccessfully to the Reeve, but having worked itself up into a feathered frenzy if was dancing around one of the islands when it came across a shape resembling a submissive Reeve. Was it his lucky day, had she finally succumbed to his dancing, or was it just an unsuspecting rock.....

The Ruff gets worked up doing his crazy dance
A stone seems to resemble a crouching Reeve
He's not missing this opportunity.....
It's his lucky day....
Oops. I hope nobody saw me?
A juvenile Avocet learning to feed
More youngsters on the marsh - Mallards
 I ran the moth trap overnight. A small catch - here are some of the interesting moths:

Four-dotted Footman
Tawny Marbled Minor
White Pinion Spotted

Privet Hawk Moth 
Bordered Pug