Sunday, 3 May 2015

Small Fall and the Godwit

Garden Warbler - Orcombe Point - one of at least 5 seen - the highest count ever!
I started the morning at the beach huts but it soon became apparent that the wind had switched around a bit more to the south-west and dropped in strength a little. Heavy drizzle was making visibility very poor. I was pleased to see a smart pale phase arctic skua, my first of the spring, but 2 common scoter, 2 fulmar and 9 'incoming' dunlin were the only other species to make the notebook in an hour.
I'm not too patient when it comes to sea-watching so I decided to try Orcombe Point for migrants. As I ambled from Foxholes towards the Geoneedle my first garden warbler of the spring started singing, the first of at least 5 birds seen this morning. Normally, one garden warbler is good on Orcombe (cf none most springs!) so 5 makes today a bit of a red-letter day! I suspect there were several more present, as I had a few brief 'probables' on top of the definite sightings. Also recorded this morning were 2 singing male lesser whitethroats (also a really good Orcombe bird), 3 sedge warblers, 4 shelduck, 1+ whimbrel, 3 swift, 1 willow warbler, 1 collared dove and 1 bullfinch, as well as good numbers of whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff and phyllosc sp. Let's be clear, this constitutes a fall on Orcombe, as anyone who has trudged around the normally birdless footpaths and fields will testify!
Mudbank produced 39 pale-bellied brent goose (although to be honest I didn't check the flanks of every single bird), 65+ whimbrel, 3 bar-tailed godwit, 22+ turnstone and 2 red-breasted merganser.


One of 3 Swift seen this morning, heading north - my first of the spring.
The Meare Heath hudsonian godwit has been niggling me a little bit. I would probably have gone last weekend had I never seen one before but I have, in Texas, back in 1998. I looked through my old logbook and was a little dismayed at the quality of my notes for that individual (see below). Though there's no doubting the identification, you can see that the details I recorded are scant and my memories of the bird are somewhat faded. The problem was that the single 'hudwit' we saw, on April 16th 1998, was one of 18 species of North American wader present on some rice fields, that were carpeted in tens of thousands of waders. It was all a bit over-whelming and the field notes inevitably fell short of the mark!
I decided to go for it late morning, but wanted to combine it with lunch out and a trip to Glastonbury with the family. This meant I couldn't spend as much time watching the bird but I didn't have to wrestle with the guilt of leaving the family behind without a car for the day. Plus, when I'm out birding, I always miss them so it was great to have them with me. I foolishly hoped that the sight of such a rare bird, on a fabulous RSPB reserve, might spark a glimmer of interest but it wasn't to be and my field sketches of the bird, that stayed steadfastly asleep for most of the time, aren't a whole lot better than the 1998 notes. I still enjoyed watching it though - a really smart bird.

Horrendous 1998 notes of my first 'hudwit'.

Horrendous 2015 notes of my second.

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