Thursday, 30 April 2015

Meare Heath Nature Reserve

Sometimes there are birds that just seek to torture you. The hudwit that arrived in Somerset on Saturday was one of those. I could not go then and it seemed to disappear. But then, it came back on the Wednesday. Given its previous performance I decided not go on the Thursday but to wait on news, and having been out the night before I had mixed feelings when news came through that it was not present on Thursday morning.
Then, plot twist, at half 9 during my lecture the news dropped that it was back. Ensue panic! I made it for the first train I could, that was at 11.00. I arrived in Bridgwater at 2.45 knowing the bus was supposed to have left at 2.40. I legged it to the stop anyway, and after some wandering, to my delight saw the bus coming towards me, so waited at the stop. Of course, the bus driver decided to drive straight past me and then refused to let me on despite my pleading. Needless to say, I was livid. I now had an hour til the next one, and given the times of the buses, I would, at best, have 15 mins with the bird.
I caught the bus an hour later and the ran from the village where I was dropped to the site, a distance of some 2 miles, to ensure I did not miss it going to roost. There were still birders around and they told me it was still there, all the more reason to run. At last, I arrived on site at 17.00, 6 hours after setting off...
The Hudsonian Godwit was feeding on the far side of the lake. It was noticeably bigger. I would have loved to scan the Black-Tailed Godwits (Year-tick) and pick it out myself but I did not have time. I knew I would just have to watch and photograph it for the duration of my time there. Sadly it did not fly or lift its wings while I was there and so did not see those beautiful underwing feathers that are so distinctive of the species. That was the biggest bummer for me, but I was just glad to have seen it. I would rather see it for half an hour than not see it at all.
Compared to the blackwits it was much bigger and had a noticeably longer more upturned bill. The chest was more brick red than any of the blackwits present. The barring on the chest and scaling on the back also made it stand out significantly for the others present. It was a little distant for good photos but I got some acceptable record shots and I am please with what I got.
-Hudsonian Godwit
Sadly I could not stay longer and so missed out on seeing those axillaries (though I am considering going again now, better planned having seen it once). I decided to try and blag a lift off a twitcher. The first one I spoke to mentioned he was from near the area so jumped in with the question and asked for a lift. He said he would, so that saved me a lot of stress and worry, allowing me to enjoy the bird all the more.
It was also nice to bump in Sarah Harris again who I met at an NGB weekend at Spurn and have not seen since, so that was nice. Despite having the lift we left at half 5 as he needed to get to Taunton for a family event, and I could not risk not finding a lift. It saved me a lot of work and meant I could get some food in Bridgwater. The bird was reported as still present at dusk and I am optimistic that it might stay a little longer so I can try again. 
In the end I made the train back and arrived back in Sheffield at an absurd time, 2.00 in the morning. All in all though it did not matter as I was thrilled to have seen the bird at long last so I can finally stop worrying about it. A stunning looking creature and only the 3rd for Britain, the first for 35 years!! What an exhausting day!

Species List:
Meare Heath NR: Black-Tailed Godwit, Hudsonian Godwit, Common Buzzard, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Dunlin, Robin, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull,

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