I seemed to be at a bit of a loss today. With the dissertation all but wrapped up it was obvious that birding was on the cards, but exactly where to go was somewhat vexing. I settled on the seemingly settled Whiskered Terns at RSPB Saltholme but got the train late morning due to waiting on news before setting off. The day got an added boost when on the train up it became apparent that a Citrine Wagtail had also decided to set up in the area, leaving me with the possibility of a double lifer day, my favourite.
It was 13.00 by the time I arrived on site, but news of the wagtail was coming out sporadically, so with no news for two hours I decided to go to Saltholme first and gather up all the goodies on offer there. Classic of course that the wagtail came back on not 2 mins after I got off my bus. Upon arriving at Saltholme I went straight to the back Saltholme hide. Before I even reached the hide I could see the Whiskered Terns fishing close, so I set up to grab some photos.
I shouldn't have bothered, as the views were even better from the hide, with both Terns fishing only a couple of meters away and performing very nicely indeed. In the end I stayed for a couple of hours watching them show off. Its always nice when the birds you twitch put on a performance and these certainly did that.
The Whiskered Terns were fantastic, but they were not the only marsh tern on offer, as there were a handful of Black Terns around too. The numbers peaked at 4 but that was only for a short time, with only 1 seeming to have settled with the Whiskered Terns. It didn't show quite as well as the Whiskered but at the same time it was still my best view I have ever had of this species, a really smart bird to admire.
The Terns were stunning, but there was a host of other goodies on offer too. The flock of 5 Spoonbills that had been reported present on site in the morning decided to give us a flyby having been settled out of sight at the back of the lake. It was only a brief flyby, only one bird actually landed in the open before it took off again and back round with the rest of the flock. Still, its always awesome to see Spoonbills, they are such good birds.
And talking of good birds, one of the many highlights was a pair of 1st summer Little Gulls that were dancing around the lake with the terns. They remained largely distant, with only one ever really coming close but always a pleasure to see such smart birds, especially in this plumage.
Couple of other quick things. A nice male Garganey was also present at the back of the lake, distant, and then failed to stick around, flying off almost as soon as I had got optics on it. And towards the end of my stay at Saltholme a Peregrine came through and sent everything up. It took us a moment to work out what had done it but the bird decided to reveal itself when it flew straight through the middle of the lake, sending everything everywhere.
News on the wagtail had continued to be sparse, but at half 2 news came out that it had shown again so I decided to make my move and by half 3 I was on site. The description from the birders on site was that it had not pinged it, but instead had walked out of sight as seemed to be its habit of doing.
So I set up and hoped it would play ball. I was in luck, as after only half an hour the bird walked out, showing for about 2 mins, and then walked out of sight again. It did the same thing about 5 mins later, but when it dissapeared next it failed to re-show until half 8 in the evening.
The Citrine Wagtail was a female, and had a lot more yellow on it that I was expecting. It was unfortunately quite distant but through the scope the views were fantastic when it was out in the open, as they usually are. I managed to grab a couple of record shots as it trotted around before its departure to who knows where.
Given the wagtails poor showing record throughout the day I was buzzing to have seen it, especially since it did not show again for over 4 hours. Obviously it would have been nice if it had shown a little better but can't be fussy with a bird like that.
One bird that did show well however was the female Pied Flycatcher in the bushes nearby the Wagtail. It came absurdly close, so close in fact at one point I could have touched it. Perhaps it had just come in and was otherwise preoccupied but whatever the reason it was really something. One of the days many many highlights.
Its hard to wrap up a day like that, but having got everything I wanted for the day, all with fantastic views and at least record shots. Its days like this which birding dreams are made of.
Saltholme RSPB: Redshank, Swift, Dunlin, Common Tern, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Ringed Plover, Herring Gull, Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Great-crested Grebe, Reed Bunting, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan. Meadow Pipit, Coot, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Spoonbill, Shelduck, Starling, Red-breasted Merganser, Garganey, Little Egret, Feral Pigeon, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Peregrine, Reed Warbler, Avocet, Sand Martin
Seaton Common: Lapwing, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Sand Martin, Woodpigeon, Herring Gull, Shelduck, Carrion Crow, Greylag Goose, Linnet, Goldfinch, Pied Flycatcher, Grey Heron, Sedge Warbler, Swift,