I think it’s safe to say that today was a good day. The weather was glorious and the wildlife was on top form. It started as soon as I got there really, or rather as soon as I was really there, because as soon as I got there I crashed and had a power nap.
Upon awakening from my nap I immediately began to search the pond for Little Terns and anything else that may be around. There was some other stuff around, namely 2 Spurn ticks for me; Tufted duck and Little Grebe. The Tuftie was a drake just leaving eclipse. It spent most of its time that I saw it with the Little Grebes, of which there were 3; and adult and 2 juveniles. The grebes stayed all day though I think the Tuftie may have left as I did not see it during the afternoon.
-Tufted Duck with Little Grebe
We then had a bit of a lull after that. In fact the whole day went into a bit of a lull, probably because it was so hot. There were very good numbers of Yellow Wagtail around, at least 6 but probably more, and off all different shades, ranging from scratty brown to fairly fresh yellow. A juvenile Marsh Harrier made and appearance too, drifting over north bank and avoiding the ponds for the most part, which meant that the terns were not disturbed in any way. There was also a Black Tailed godwit that spent the day on the ponds, adding to the wader diversity. Alas it was not a summer plumaged individual but it was appreciated none the less.
The morning livened up significantly when I was on my way back from long bank around mid morning. It was quite warm by now, and came back to find a Common Lizard chillin on the doorstep of the hut. Of course as soon as it saw me it bolted, but the only place for it to go was inside the hut. It only stayed in a few minuets as I went into the hut myself in order to keep the exit clear and usher the lizard out. Of course I had the wrong lens but managed a few shots with my compact when the lizard sat rather obligingly on the ladder near the door. It was certainly a different experience on the job…
On the way to lunch down Beacon Lane I kept my eyes open for the lesser whitethroat but I could not find it. I did find numerous Common Whitethroat including a few juvs, but they tended to be skulky and difficult to see fully. Also on the lane I found a lovely Willow Warbler, which is unsurprising now their passage has started. It was very photogenic and allowed me to get some really decent shots of it, thought there was a bit of branch rather unhelpfully in the way.
It remained quiet until pretty much going home time. But as I was about to leave early because it had been so quiet, a pale phase Arctic Skua flew by not far off shore. It did not cause much disturbance but I stayed in order to make sure it did not return and bother the birds. It was a nice individual, very clear with well-defined features, clearly visible as it moved along the coast.
So that finished me off for my day shift. So, where was all the wildlife? Well it all came during the evening’s seawatch which was very productive bird-wise but damaged my already fragile credibility significantly.
I started at around half 6 with a few guys, though by the end there was quite a crowd. It started very slowly, the tern passage barely getting going. However, but half 7 it began to pick up and good movements of Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns began to move through. Picking up the Commons from the Arctics in a mixed flock is not something I can do with ease, but by the end of the evening I gave it a go with 2 Terns that drifted down, calling them as commons. Apparently they were both Arctic! I also made a blunder with a Gull that landed on the beach. With the light it looked like it had yellow-legs, so I called it. As it moved towards the shore though its legs cleared and it turned out to be a Herring Gull. Wonderful!
However, that’s enough of the negative, what about the positive. Well, as I said there was good movement of Terns going through, but there were also a few waders. There were a few Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin, as well and the usual Whimbrel and Oystercatchers. Tim spotted 2 Juvenile Med Gulls that flew through, even landing on the sea for a minute or two before moving on.
The real highlights, though, started when there was a bizarre wader call from overhead. I of course had no idea what it was, but the others all jumped to their feet with Wood Sandpiper, only my second ever of course. It was quite high up, and without the call I would probably not have noticed it and certainly never identified it, but it was a new experience, if not a sadly brief one.
At 8.00 came the real star of the show. There had been one possible juv black tern moving far out to sea, but the guys were identifying it from its jizz and none really sounded overly convinced. Either way, I’m not sure I saw it. But at 8.00 a large group of terns came through reasonably close to the shore. I followed them and thought I had picked out a Black Tern in with them. I was about to call it for someone to look at, when another birder sat outside the hide called it first, loosing me possibly my best self-find ever. But this bird was closer than my first, so I decided to grab some record shots. It was at that moment that the unthinkable happened, when a pair of Arctic Skuas appeared, going the opposite way up the same line. Of course the terns went mad and scarpered all over the place. The Skuas started chasing the Sandwich Terns but the other terns disappeared and I was left searching the horizon frantically looking for my Black. Fortunately Paul pointed them out to me, as they had gone straight up and I would have missed them otherwise. We then found the Black, adult black I must add, and I was able to get some record shots to maintain my 100% lifer photo record for this year.
-Black Tern (With Commons)
We called it quits at around 8.45, having totted up a decent number of species (Well, they had for me). The final thing to move through was a flock of Common Scoter at 8.36. It was quite a seawatch, very successful, and I think I am getting to grips with it a bit more, the more I do it.
And that wraps up today. It’s been a very enjoyable but very relaxed kinda day, not too much tern bother and plenty to enjoy in the warm weather.
The Daily Oystercatcher
Today marks a new turn in the Oystercatchers. For the first time I recall seeing one of the chicks alarm call and move independently of its mother. That means that at least one chick now knows how to handle itself should to encounter a predator on its own. Their progress has been outstanding, and its good to watch them develop these final skills. I note that I have not included a picture of them for some time, so here’s a nice family portrait to show just how much they have changed.
Beacon Ponds: Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Common Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Shelduck, Mallard, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Yellow Wagtail, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Redshank, Mute Swan, Black-Tailed Godwit, Sand Martin, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Sparrowhawk, House Martin, House Sparrow, Whitethroat, Blackbird, Whimbrel, Pied Wagtail, Arctic Skua, Grey Seal, Common Lizard, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Large White, Wall Brown, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ruddy Darter, Emperor, Migrant Hawker, Blue-Tailed Damselfly,
Seawatching: Guillemot, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Little Tern, Dunlin, Gannet, Swallow, Common Gull, Wood Sandpiper, Black Tern, Arctic Tern, Meadow Pipit, Arctic Skua, Herring Gull, Sand Martin, House Martin, Oystercatcher, Knot, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Redshank, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Common Scoter, Grey Seal