Given that I hardly see the light on a nightshift anymore I would be forgiven for not getting much wildlife on them. However, tonight was an exception to this rule. At 3.50 in the morning I heard the sound of distressed Oystercatchers, so went outside to have a look. Naturally I anticipated fox, so was scanning the shoreline when a ghostly form flew overhead, the form of a Short-Eared Owl. Unexpected would not quite cover it, given that this is the first time I have encountered one on duty. In hindsight it is possible that it was in fact a long-eared, but my memory seems to serve that the breast was relatively unstreaked and that the bird did have dark wingtips, so I would be more satisfied with the Short-Eared identification.
That was not all for the night though. As Keiron wandered up the beach to relieve me of my duty I noticed something rabbit sized move in the dunes. Of course rabbits do not live on this part of the reserve so I went to check it out. I found a Leveret cowering on the dune, not 3 feet away from me. I watched it without moving and after a bit it sat up and moved off into the dunes. It was an incredible view of the animal, unlike any I have ever had of Hare before.
When I awoke from my sleep it was still blowing a gale and I was not particularly enticed to go out and have a look. Eventually I did though, and ended up wandering along the coast to canal scrape. Along the coast I found a single juvenile Mediterranean Gull feeding along the surf. Initially its identity escaped me but I managed to get close enough to make sure that it was a Med Gull and that I had not made a mistake
On Canal Scrape it was almost barren of birds, with Mallard, Coot and Reed Warbler being the only birds there, with Willow Warbler and Woodpigeon in behind and the Swallows nest within the hide itself. I bumped into a Brighouse birder in there though, Mick Sharp, shout out there. We headed back to the coast to try and find another Med Gull but sadly failed. We did find a few Turnstone, Sanderling and Ringed Plover though, probably there was the wind had kept the tourists from the beach.
I headed in after that for an early tea in order to avoid missing anything at the evenings tern count. Once more I was first in the hide, and started counting immediately. It was another great nights tern counting, only this time I had the whole thing, so was able to fully appreciate it.
Once more it took a while to get going, with birds not really beginning to move until around 6.30, but by 7.00 there were large flocks of Common Tern moving through, along with a few waders and gulls. I was on the duty of counting Sandwich Tern and anything not a Common Tern. There were surprisingly few Sandwich Tern, only 83 in almost 4 hours. As for waders species, the numbers were very good; Sanderling 71, Dunlin 57, Knot 138, Whimbrel 7, Turnstone 10, Ringed Plover 34, Redshank 12, Oystercatcher 16, Black-Tailed Godwit 9, a very enjoyable evening counting them.
There were a number of out of ordinary birds too tonight, starting at 18.45 when the first one came through. I was watching a flock of Common Tern and noticed near the front an adult Black Tern flying with them. I called it out first, but I get the impression that it had been found simultaneously by a number of us. Either way, it was a great find, the only downside being that it was perhaps a little too close ad that I was unable to get any decent photos as the bird dropped below the cliff before I had managed to get my gear sorted.
At 19.11 another different bird came past. One of the guys had already noted that there must have been a predator around as the swallows were clearly not happy. However, it took a good half an hour before the predator revealed itself by flying right in front of the seawatch hide. It was a lovely female Sparrowhawk, and she flew right along the cliff top in front of us. It was an exceptional view, but the light was too poor to take it cleanly in the photos, so my only efforts were very blurry.
After that I had a bit more luck, both bad and good. First of all the inevitable had to happen. So far this week I had managed to dip a whopping 6 rosette terns all for bizarre reasons. When one was announced I immediately went for the kit to try and find it among the flock and finally end my back luck. However, as was inevitable I could not find it before the terns had moved on, as is standard. I think rosette tern can now replace gropper as my bogey bird!
However it was not all bad as at 19.12 just after the sprawk another Black Tern flew past, but this time further out, so I had more time to set my photos, though they were obviously not very good simply because of the distance. It came in with a flock of Common Tern but seemed to get left behind by them and was soon flying on its own.
But that was not the end of it. At 19.29 one of the birders spotted a Barn Owl hunting over Clubleys scrape. I had been worried I would not manage a photo of this species this year, but now I had the chance to put that right. In fairness I may as well not have done as my efforts were extremely poor but they were only record shots for my year list. Another fantastic species for the evening!
But of course the real stars of the evening were the Common Terns themselves, and there were plenty of them. In total 7470 were counted, the highest of the year, and since I had been there since the start I had effectively seen all of them. They were incredible, sometimes massive flocks flying right alongside the cliff right next to us, and in the evening light they looked incredible.
And I made it to the end, so tonight is not the night I set my rosette bogey right. I made my way up to my shift but I had barely started when a familiar foe set the Oystercatchers off. It was the owl again, or a different one, as this one I am pretty sure was a Long-Eared, as it seemed too small for a short eared and seemed to have a streakier belly. I guess I will never know, but it seems likely to be the same bird whatever its true identity.
The Daily Oystercatcher
No sighting of the Oyks again simply because I’m not there in the day. As I alluded to though, there were oystercatchers greatly upset but the presence of the owl in the evening, and I think they are out family. I was surprised by just how bonkers they went, the most crazed I have ever seen them, and I doubt very much that the owl would have posed them any threat, even if I had not seen it off.
Beacon Ponds: Short Eared Owl? Long-Eared Owl? Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Brown Hare
Canal Scrape: Mallard, Coot, Reed Warbler, Swallow, Sand Martin, Linnet, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon,
Seawatching: Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Swallow, Gannet, Turnstone, Sanderling, Knot, Common Tern, Ringed Plover, Woodpigeon, Little Tern, Linnet, Whimbrel, Mediterranean Gull, Dunlin, Black-Headed Gull, Arctic Tern, Common Scoter, Redshank, Black-Tailed Godwit, Black Tern, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, Meadow Pipit, Herring Gull, Lesser lack-Backed Gull,