Sunday, 26 April 2015

April: The month of Yanks...apparently

Rather than bore you with a group of far too detailed trip reports of my recent twitches, I will lump them all into one and hopefully I will look back on April 2015 as nothing but ridiculously good!

First up, we have my recent day trip to the Scillies. Incredibly, Ash Fisher, who found the first UK Great Blue Heron in 2007 found his and the UK's second on the very same pool whilst sat in the very same spot he found the first at Lower Moors. By the time Scott, Liam and I got a chance to go and see it, the bird was refound (after being incredibly elusive the previous two twitchable days) on Big Pool on Bryher. Four hours on the archipelago saw us go from St. Mary's to Bryher and enjoyed great views of the Heron. Initially it was somewhat underwhelming as it sat in the middle of the pool looking very sorry for itself. It woke up and became very active showing off its very impressive neck, rufous carpal, buff toned thighs and rufous upper thighs and very dusky overall appearence. A bird I really didn't think I would see anytime soon!  

After enjoying super views of the heron, we chartered a boat to Tresco and made a quick sprint to Abbey Pool to see the long-staying Black Duck. The drake showed surprisingly well considering it was traditionally very shy. Though it may not be the most striking bird on the British List, it certainly isn't an easy bird to see as they are still very rare (in terms of individuals). A charter back to St. Mary's saw us have enough time for a celebratory pint in the Mermaid completed our fantastic short stop on my favourite place in Britain. To make it even better, I found a Basking Shark between St. Levan and Mousehole. Fantastic!
Only a week later, I was out again getting the train to Warrington to meet Alex and Steff (I thought my days of getting the train to meet friends was over when I got a car...That's second hand French cars for you!). We were planning on heading to Donna Nook to see the very stunning drake Blue-winged Teal. As the train pulled into the station, I had a quick check of Birdguides and was astonished to see a mega alert of a Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset! Good lord!
Needless to say, the teal was well and truly forgotten and we set course for the south. Three and a bit hours later, we were joining the already large assemblage of excited twitchers. The Godwit was still present and happily asleep. First impressions were 'Blimey! That's dark!'. The heavy barring underneath really made it stand out, even asleep and viewing through binoculars. 
Occasionally it woke up and revealed it's lance-like two-toned bill. Later, when it moved a shades area, the bright orange tone to the bill really stood out, but that wasn't obvious against the clear sky reflection of the water. It began preening and a stretch of the wings was followed by 'oo's and 'aa's from the crows as it revealed its jet black underwing coverts. It later flew and again revealed just how striking these things are in flight, as well as the very thin wing-bar compared to the Blackwits. I always wanted this to be a good species in the flesh, but was worried it may be a little underwhelming when one eventually turned up. How wrong I was! It was utterly fantastic! Again, another massively rare bird I didn't expect to see for a very long time. Especially not in April in the middle of Somerset! A third for Britain and what is currently looking like a one day wonder (it was present the day before but only confirmed on day-2). A supporting cast of Wood Warbler, Wood Sandpiper, 4 Great White Egret, 3 Hobby and 2 reintroduced Crane made for a wonderful reserve I'll have to return to

 Of course it doesn't stop there! The journey home saw news break of a Pied-billed Grebe at Leighton Moss! A second for Lancashire. It looks like it's the same bird that was in Gloucestershire the day prior (an impressive movement!) and one I wanted very much to see. James Shergold picked me up at 5 this morning and we arrived at Lower Hide for about 5:45. A calling Spotted Crake, reeling Grasshopper Warbler, drake Garganey and 4 Otter showing fantastically would've made the trip more than worthwhile. The otters swam into the reeds and believe it or not, flushed out the grebe and it flew right in front of the hide (well...20m out). Only the second PBG I have seen and my first summer plumaged bird. What a gem!
I doubt I'll get another chance to see another American vagrant before May, but there's probably more chance of that than seeing Hudsonian Godwit and Great Blue Heron in the same week!

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