Monday 10 September 2018

Starting September

Cattle Egret - Tealham Moor, Somerset
September is just over a week old and already it has been a productive month featuring a trip out with small to Tophill Low and four Garganey, a couple of mornings seawatching with Pete including a brace of Barred Warblers, Migfest at Spurn featuring Corncrake, Common Rosefinch and Short-eared Owl and then today a brief detour onto the Somerset levels to see the post-breeding Cattle Egret aggregation and at least 38 birds present (of the 54 that are roaming the area at the moment). So lets start at the top...

Garganey - Tophill Low
Well it wasn't technically September when Abby and myself had a ramble round Tophill. Over the last few months she has really started taking an interest in my interests and will quite happily jump on my lap to watch the football or cricket and she along with half of England is a huge Harry Kane fan. The idea of looking at birds with Daddy is starting to take hold but at 6 she has a limited attention span. Working with this we did a whistle stop tour of some of Tophills scrapes looking for waders. She was particularly taken with a Black-tailed Godwit and the Little Egrets whilst my interest was piqued by 4 Garganey which appeared to be an adult pair and 2 juveniles but equally could have been three juvs and a male. It was great to be able to share a couple of hours with her and show her my passion for birds and nature but also to have the opporunity to pull the plug when she got bored.

Black-tailed Godwit - Tophill Low
Last week, as mentioned above featured some seawatching at St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay with Pete Clark. Pete is a mere fortnight from his nuptials and with a 5 month old baby as well its not been often we have got out birding this year so twice in a week was a bonus. It was pretty steady on the first day with a handful of Arctic Skuas and Manx Shearwaters but the second was terrible. Winds were wrong and there was nothing moving save for a few Red-throated Divers. We went for a ramble only to find ourselves beaten to the punch as from the screen on the wetland a host of Sylvias were foraging on some sunny brambles in the lee of the wind. Amongst 4 Blackcaps, a Lesser Whitethroat and 3 Whitethroats were a rather smart Whinchat and two Barred Warblers. We got extended views through our scopes of these jumbo warblers as the foraged, preened and slept in the sun before the need to go to work intervened. A properly decent start to the day.

Barred Warbler at SMI - a little distant.
This brings us to Migfest yesterday where I had the pleasure of bumping into many friends and acquaintainces but best of all seeing first hand what the birders of tomorrow are capable of. I saw Lizzy Bradbury waving frantically and it turns out her son Jack, winner of the Young Birder of the Year competition had just found a Corncrake in the field margin south-east of Cliff Farm. I jogged over and was fortunate to have a couple of minutes viewing the bird on and off in the shorter grass, zigzagging through away from the edge. Despite being joined by many more folks it evaporated and some juvenile pheasants in the centre of the field were called by a couple of optimists which clouded it all really. Jack should be held up and praised for such an astute find of a skulky bird, especially when it gets me a full county tick after hearing birds in the LDV this spring. It moved me onto 320 species for God's Own County, a long way behind the veterans! Down by Canal Scrape I had the Common Rosefinch briefly on wires before it cleared off with Goldfinches.

Peter Williams, my old Patchwork Challenge compadre was also on site and we went for a yomp up past Beacon Ponds and Easington Lagoons with a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Greenshank for company. A number of Sandwich Terns were roosting in fields with Black-headed Gulls which had been following the plough and a Short-eared Owl floated past. Try as we might there was little else out of the ordinary although some Pintail coming out of eclipse were decent. From Kilnsea Wetlands we headed back to Westmere Farm and parted company. I  popped my county recorder hat on and got to see a few folk including Scott Mayson, Birdtrack co-ordinator for BTO and Jill Warwick, former secretary for the birds section of the YNU. It was also good to catch up with Garry Taylor, Nick Moran, Tim Cowley and Martin Standley and finally meet John Law for the first time after many conversations online. I even got an entry into his Yorkshire Birders caricature sketch book for a donation to the obs. Apparently photos of this exist but you wont find them here...

Today and a trip to Somerset for work. I had a quick peak into Tealham Moor as I'd heard there were UK record numbers of Cattle Egret present. I didnt manage 54 but a group of 3 were soon joined by 18 more whilst half a mile away another 17 were in a field and working a ditch amongst the host of bovids that were kicking about. I couldnt get to more than 38 but with so many ditches and such mobile birds in a massive area there could be loads more present.   

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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