Since the weather remained a little off point, I decided to make my move for the long staying Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham Harbour. Granted it’s a bit of a trek, but it was not too expensive and it is only the 9th British Record, and a fascinating bird from an ornithological point of view. I was well up for going to see it.
I woke earlier than expected, so was out of bed for 5.30. I decided to make the trip round all the toilet blocks on site looking for moths before I got my train, hoping to get my day off to a good start. I thought it had started fantastically when I found a Green Silver Lines on the first block. However, I was in for a real surprise when I got to the second. There were a couple for GSL’s but on the roof of the building, drooping down was the moth I most wanted for the holiday; Poplar Hawkmoth. I was thrilled and did not know what to do, so I grabbed a load of photos before picking it up and moving it to a number of more scenic locations, including my nose. I was thrilled. Moths were on the agenda today, as the other shower block had left the light on all night, filling the building with moths for me to look at. Below are the ones which I was able to identify, which are all of the notable ones.
-Green Silver Lines
-White Plume Moth
I then made my way to the train, after holiday ticking Siskin and getting a couple more moth species at the train station itself. It took a while travelling to get to Pagham, but I made it on site for 10. Knowing that the Whimbrel was mobile and hard to pin down I opted not to look at the spotted redshank on the near pool and just race to the estuary to try and pin it down.
As soon as I arrived at the bank I could see a few Whimbrels starting to move, as well as a few Curlews. They were flying past me for roosting at the saltmarsh. I began to check through the moving whimbrel, looking intently for the tell-tale signs. All the initial whimbrel were normal, but then, as I was filtering through them I picked it out, brown back and all.
I could not believe I had picked it up so soon, but it continued to fly and I realised that I was going to lose it pretty quickly. I threw my bag down and grabbed the camera as soon as I could. Fortunately it was still in flight and I managed to fire off a few quick record shots of the bird before it dropped down into the saltmarsh. Sadly my camera screen remains broken and I could not check them in the field. Fortunately, when I got back to base I was pleased to see they came out reasonably well, well enough for a record shot anyway.
I was chuffed to bits, and raced to the spot where it had landed. Sadly it was well down in the saltmarsh and I could not see it. I waited another 2 hours at the spot where I had seen it land, but it did not reappear. Whimbrels and Curlews were roosting on the water’s edge but I could not pick it out there, and I did not see the bird fly off.
Whilst I waited I was treated to a few bits and pieces. There were good numbers of Linnet around, some of which were singing right alongside the path from the top of nearby gorse bushes. Waders were moving a little bit too, with a few Redshank and Oystercatchers blogging about. Ducks were also moving, and I picked up a mixed flock of Teal and Shoveler moving over the saltmarsh.
-Shoveler and Teal
I decided, after the 2 hours, to move down the bank to the hide where the bird had been frequently reported from, in the hope that it had moved down there while I was distracted. It was not down there but by now the tide was out a little more and as such there were a few waders around. Turnstone, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin were all on the bank, and there were 3 Species of tern accompanying them; Little, Common and Sandwich. Without doubt the highlight bird was a superb looking leucistic Curlew, almost pure white. It sadly remained distant but I got a couple of record shots of it, without doubt the coolest Curlew I have ever seen!
By now doubts were plaguing my mind as to whether I had actually seen the Whimbrel, since I could not check my photos, and as such I was beginning to get frustrated that I had not got a proper view of it. Since it was not at the hide I moved back to where I had seen it previously. As soon as I arrived I thought I checked through the Whimbrel and immediately picked it up in flight in the distance but did not see where it went down.
I was here joined by another birder, who had seen it before, and this proved invaluable when, a few minutes later, I picked up a rather striking Whimbrel on its own in the bay. It was distant but there were no other birds nearby and as such I had nothing to compare it to, but the features on the face were strong and the bill seemed a little longer than normal. The other birder had a look and he confirmed that it did look right for the Hudsonian Whimbrel, but we would need it to fly before we could be 100% certain.
Right on cue, as we were discussing the bird, it took off, catching us both by surprise. In flight it clearly was the Hud Whimbrel as indicated by the brown back. However, the euphoria did not last long, as it circled once before dropping into the saltmarsh where we lost it again. Despite another hours wait it did not come out and I eventually decided to give it up. I had seen it clearly on the deck (though distant) and had reasonable flight views, so I was pretty pleased.
After that I headed back to the caravan, considering my days work done. However, in the evening we went for a walk in Weymouth. I sifted through the gulls present during our stroll and was rewarded with superb views of an Adult Mediterranean Gull, plus another 2 adults on the beach and a second winter bird… So not bad going at all.
-Mediterranean GullSpecies List:
Crossways Caravan Site: Magpie, Woodpigeon, Siskin, Robin, Blackbird,
Pagham Harbour: Avocet, Chaffinch, Black-Tailed Godwit, Teal, Green Woodpecker, Dunlin, Skylark, Rook, Long-Tailed Tit, Linnet, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Shelduck, Black-Headed Gull, Great-Crested Grebe, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Redshank, Blue Tit, Little Egret, Starling, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Stock Dove, Cormorant, Whitethroat, Common Tern, Herring Gull, Lapwing, Sandwich Tern, Ringed Plover, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Turnstone, Mute Swan, Grey Plover, Great Black-Backed Gull, Little Tern, Swift, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Greenshank, Meadow Pipit, House Sparrow, Little Grebe, Common Sandpiper, Kestrel, Shoveler,