Tuesday, 19 December 2006

The Bittern Trip Mk2

As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed... so this was our second trip to find the Bittern at Potteric Carr NR, near Doncaster, and this time we weren't to be disappointed.

Perhaps it was the birds becoming more comfortable at their wintering site, the calmer brighter weather, or maybe we were just luckier this time, whatever the reason they showed well yesterday, with two different individuals from one very popular hide. A new lifer for me.

Their famed talent for transformation is well founded, and we watched these birds seamlessly move from streaky egg-shape to towering serpent. It's quite remarkable, and quite typical of this highly charismatic species.

That other elusive bird of the reedbed Water Rail was similarly accommodating, indeed more so. I'd never previously heard of them coming to feeders, never mind seen it, but now I'm a believer. As the tits and finches scattered seed down onto the grass below, the Water Rail skulked and crept from the reeds, out into plain view to peck up the remnants, no more than ten yards from the hide.

On the far side of the reserve beneath the main road into Doncaster, 2,000-3,000 Golden Plover roosted in the afternoon with smaller numbers of Lapwing.

All in all, a grand day out, and just reward for all that Christmas shopping I've had to do with my girlfriend.

Bittern in Winter, Black-necked Grebe breeding in the Spring/Summer, Potteric Carr is quickly becoming a must-do for the northern birder.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Bitternly Disappointed

Potteric Carr, Doncaster, probably the best place in the North for Bittern. Five apparently on the reserve, and did we see one? Nada. Two hours in the number one hide, if they're showing they are there. Birders came and went, but Bittern didn't. Some people had been there all day and seen just as little as we did, whilst we were told early morning is the best time to see the birds.
At times of great frustration it's often helpful to philosophise, and we've decided that striking out today must mean we deserve outrageous luck elsewhere. Soon may it come.

Overall it was a quiet day bird-wise, but it's a relatively new reserve so it is bound to take time for word to get around the bird flocks.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Another wild bird chase...

First of all let me say I am NOT a twitcher, work had dragged my partner down to Cambridgeshire and I hitched along for the ride in hopes of maybe ticking off a very special bird indeed - an inland Leach's Storm Petrel.

The story is covered here by timesonline, but briefly speaking the terrible and persistent southerly gales Britain has suffered in the past week have brought north great numbers of Leach's Storm Petrel that would otherwise be safely wintering in calmer, warmer areas of the Atlantic.
Most are turning up on the south and west coasts, areas like Morecambe and Cardiff Bay, but others are being blown further inland. Areas like Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, even London. So if you've been at all nearby a recorded sighting, it's a chance not to be missed.

Alas, according to birdguides.com, the petrels had either gone or all died by the time we arrived at Grafham Water (where they'd been well reported earlier in the day), all there was were us and several other wet and disappointed birders. At least there is some solace in not seeing a species that wasn't there, rather than not seeing one that was.
The best bird of the day, a couple of flattered Goldeneye probably wondering what all the fuss was about.

Much worse luck for the petrels of course, once inland they seem terminally doomed. Even if they find a large body of water, it's fresh water and there just isn't the marine food for birds already tired, cold and wind battered. Sad really.

The gales still blow, so there's still a chance they could turn up almost anywhere in the UK.
This might be a once in ten or twenty year event.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Blacktoft Sands RSPB

East Yorkshire, a good place to be to catch the late migration season.

Blacktoft has been a regular destination for years in my family, though for some reason we'd never been during November and seldom stayed very near dusk. Both big mistakes. Yesterday we were on the reserve until nearly 4pm, more or less around high tide and the flocks were becoming big. Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit too, by the hundreds and thousands, and all alighting when a languid Sparrowhawk twice quartered across the lagoons. And in the distance large skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed by.
It was a true natural spectacle.

We're very near the inland port of Goole at Blacktoft, so pacing container ships are common.

The Pinkies.

Locally rare a couple of Whoopers were in fields adjacent to the reserve.

Other notable sightings included Merlin, Goldeneye, and finally the bird which the reserve is most famed for Marsh Harrier - three of them. Oh and we also saw Roe Deer.

If you're too far north of the north Norfolk reserves of Snettisham and Titchwell where all the birds I've mentioned gather in even more unimaginable numbers, Blacktoft isn't a disappointing substitute.