Day 11, a day that finally begins at some kind of reasonable hour, as in not 00.00. But 4.00 is not much better. I crawled still half asleep to the hut, relieved Keiron of duty, then sat in the chair and went to sleep for 2 hours on and off. If anything were to happen I am reliably informed the birds would wake me, and they did. I kept checking during my waking breaks and nothing was happening. There were not even that many Juv Little Terns about. There was my Oystercatcher family though, and they always provide fun. There were 3 Little Egrets in too at 5.20, as well as a juvenile Little Gull preening itself on the shoreline.
When I finally awoke and decided to stay awake it was already 7.30. Completely wrecked I set about counting the days birds. I managed 218 Sandwich Terns at 9.30, 11 Arctic Terns and 2 Common Terns at the same time. Not bad really. The first birds that I crossed paths with that were not pool regulars was a large flock of Common Scoter out to sea, that went north at 9.50. I decided to take some photos of these, as it was looking like a quiet day and something photographed may be needed for said blog I decided.
To be honest that was about it until lunchtime. It was a very quiet morning and I get the impression that I did not miss much by having a power nap.
On the way back from lunch things really started to pick up right from the off. Despite the fact that the sky was overcast it was incredibly humid and warm so there were plenty of insects around on Beacon Lane. Today had 2 Wall Browns and the regulars, plus a Small Copper. Having seen spurns first of this species this year last Thursday I decided to grab some pictures to commemorate this find. I had the wrong lens on, so it’s not great, but it’s a site record shot.
There was still and Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing on the small pond, but that was about it. There were a couple of darters in the pathside vegetation, which I assume are Ruddy. I inspected one female and that was the case.
On the beach there were more Sanderlings in summer plumage. There had been one on the way to lunch, but it had seen me first and taken off with a Ringed Plover, before I knew what was happening. This was a larger group, around 10 birds, but they were difficult to approach. Waders on the beach have been fairly approachable, with the exception of Sanderling. Since I have to get past them it’s not usually an issue in that they will be approached regardless, so may as well try and get some snaps while I am at it.
Over lunch I had seen yesterday’s sightings log. Adam had been up to the ponds, while I was there, and managed to count 38 juvenile little terns. Yesterday I managed to count 13. I asked where he got the numbers from and said that the best spot is on the long bank behind the pond. I have previously tried to do this but failed to find a real path, so did not make it. But since finding a way looks like it would make the difference between me doing my job properly and not meant that I had to find a way. I did find a way, an overgrown path so covered in vegetation it looks little more than a natural sea-break, but it was a way onto the far bank.
It was well worth it, as I counted 24 juvenile Little Terns. The number is unsurprisingly lower than Adams, because at 1.55 before I set off the male Sparrowhawk made another appearance at the lagoon, sending everything crazy and many terns took off out to sea. The Sparrowhawk had the nerve to land on the beach again before I saw it off. I don’t think it got anything but the fact that it came back suggests that it is using the pools as one of its regular haunts. Well, it will have to get through me if he wants any dinner from here!
But it was not the Little Terns that stole the show from up on long bank. It was nearing high tide and the days Dunlin were all it. I set the scope up for a gander through and immediately, immediately I tell you, landed on a SUMMER PLUMAGED Curlew Sandpiper. It was feeding among the sleeping Dunlin, moving around near the back. Since yesterday’s bird had been a proper pain to photograph, constantly moving and hiding, I rattled off about a hundred record shots of this bird out in the open, where it was little more than a small blob with legs and a curved beak.
But I need not have bothered. The bird kept coming closer, but still far away, when it upset a Ringed Plover, poor choice to upset of birds on this pond. The Plover gave the sandpiper a good chase, but the sandpiper came round and landed on the near bank, as close as I could possibly hope to get from Long-Bank and as close as I could realistically hope. I got some good record shots of the bird as it fed among a small company of Dunlin. And as if any more proof was needed, when it flew I got some shots of that white rump.
It stayed close for around 15 mins before it upset another Ringed Plover and flew back to the main bunch of Dunlin, probably around 700 in today. I took a few more shots later, when it was feeding alongside a Knot and a single Dunlin, to serve as a comparison shot between the species. Having said that, if I see a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper there will be little doubt as to its identity, it being a stunning bird to say the least.
-Curlew Sandpiper mobbed by Ringed Plover
-Knot, Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper
Also among the ranks of Dunlin were a few Knot, a single Turnstone, but a lovely adult in summer plumage and around 6 adult Little Gull on the small island. But the highlight was a Kittywake that had taken up among the Sandwich Terns. Finding it once again proved to myself that I would be able to identify species outside of their expected environment.
I headed back to the hut. I would have to stay on the bank to watch the birds as the views were so much better, but I needed to be on duty in case any photographers, irresponsible birds, irresponsible dog owners or tourists decided to ignore the signs on the beach. The clouds were beginning to clear, though the wind did not drop, but it was peasant enough to set up outside atop my dune and watch, there was not long of my shift left.
Late on in my shift I got the horror I did not need, almost confirming my worst fears. The Terns had been on edge all afternoon, very flighty, due to the Sparrowhawks appearance. So late in the shift when the terns went mad I assumed they were overreacting. You can tell how serious their panic is whether or not the Dunlin go up too, this time they did. I spotted a female Sparrowhawk flying through the colony. It seems then that a pair is using the site for hunting. Fortunately this time the bird just passed through as it was mobbed violently, unlike the male bird which was left largely in peace. I will have to be extra on my guard from now on.
I spent the last half an hour of my shift looking out to sea hoping for a Skua to appear. I did find 2 families of Guillemots on the sea, 2 adults with young chicks bobbing on the waves. I decided then that I rather a Skua not turn up, as these looked primed for Skua snacking. In that sense, fortunately one did not turn up. I also wondered if the Grey Seals might try to snack on them, but so far as I can see they did not.
And that was the sum total of my Seawatching that afternoon, very little movement. On the way back though I picked up another nice species when I flushed a Painted Lady from the path at the bottom of Beacon Lane. It moved into the bushes, where I photographed it. I noticed that the butterfly was shivering quite rapidly, which is the first time I have seen this outside the early morning. It had obviously been sunbathing when I inadvertently flushed it.
And with that I made it back to the Warren. I did not go out again as the tiredness was beginning was to catch up again and I had 2 days blog posts to do. It’s been another great afternoon, even if the morning was not up to much, more Curlew Sands, more Oystercatchers, More chasing off hungry Sparrowhawks, I love my Job!
The Daily Oystercatcher
When I arrived both chicks were feeding behind the hide, each with an adult. But once again it was clear to see that one chick was becoming more independent, as it wandered along from the other 3. It re-joined later and I frequently saw each chick with one parent throughout the day. I also saw both chicks feeding together without the adult. So it had to be when the female Sparrowhawk flew through, as the adults went mad, the first time I have seen them leave the chicks in the event of a predator, with the exception being when I have to check the electric fence and they are nearby. I got a nice photo of one of the chicks being demanding/fed for today's slot. Shows just how well they are doing.
Beacon Ponds: Little Egret, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Little Gull, Dunlin, Mute Swan, Ringed Plover, Little Tern, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Arctic Tern, Cormorant, Avocet, Common Gull, Common Tern, Gannet, Woodpigeon, Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Common Scoter, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Sanderling, Sparrowhawk, Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Swallow, Linnet, Reed Bunting, House Martin, Starling, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Turnstone, Mallard, Guillemot, Sedge Warbler, Herring Gull, Grey Seal, Common Lizard, Emperor Dragonfly, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Common Blue, Small Copper, Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Large White, Small White, Green-Veined White, Meadow Brown, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Small Heath