Sunday, 27 September 2009

Breaking the mould

Abberton Reservoir 27 September 2009

Kevin McManus and I met at Banstead Downs for a bit of birding before the main trip of the day. The highlight was a female Reed Bunting which was an overdue patch tick for me (71). Other highlights included Treecreeper, Coal Tit, one Swallow and 2 Grey Herons which are now starting to fly over regularly again for the winter period.

We headed back to my Gran's place to wait for the parents to pick us up, just after hearing bad news about the Zitting Cisticola aka Fan-tailed Warbler that we had been planning to see, and hearing surprising news of an Isabelline Wheatear at Colliers Wood Farm, Essex. Kevin did not need the Wheatear but I did, and I was keen to head up there especially seeing as there was also a White-rumped Sandpiper at Abberton Reservoir, another bird I needed.

The parents arrived and the satnav was reorientated, despite negative news coming out on the Wheatear. This weekend and the last one were the only ones in a fair while that I and/or Kevin had got away from our local patches, and we were both grateful for the break from our fruitless efforts. On the way to Essex my mum spotted four Common Buzzards circling together above the M25.

Eventually Abberton Reservoir was reached and Kev and I were soon watching the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, enjoying good views of this American calidris Sandpiper. The long primary projection, streaking on the flanks and the head pattern were all clearly visible. British lifer 249 for me.
White-rumped Sandpiper

It was a very pleasant surprise to see 30+ Spotted Redshanks, say 20+ Ruff, 5-10 Black-tailed Godwits and smaller numbers of Snipe and Green Sandpipers. There was also a handful of Little Egrets. There were huge numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard, Mallard and Tufted Duck with at least one Pintail, a female-type.
Spotted Redshank (left) and Ruff

Yes, the wildfowl were certainly, interesting . . . 2 escaped Red-breasted Geese were present amongst all sorts of farmyard ducks and geese. A sighting that got me thinking was a pair of Black Swans with 6 cygnets . . . a potential promotion to category C of the British list?

Following reports of Spoonbill that were released as we were there, myself, Kevin and Ian (a Surrey birder that we sometimes bump into) scanned for the bird, then moved to the other causeway and scanned some more but there was strangely no sign of the bird which was reported to have been seen while we there on site watching the Sandpiper.

From the other causeway we saw a female/immature type Marsh Harrier and a Kestrel and several more Little Egrets.

The parents returned and Kev and I left for Rainham Marshes RSPB, hoping we'd bump into something special after the run of birds there. Just after leaving the reservoir, dad pulled up the car so that we could all enjoy stunning views of a pale morph Common Buzzard that was flying low over the road in excellent light, I snapped a few shots but can't put them on yet as the laptop I'm using doesn't have any photo editing software (the photo is currently a NEF). Rainham was extremely disappointing with nothing on the Thames or in Aveley Bay, which were the main areas we scanned the only thing that brightened it up was a Clouded Yellow butterfly that fluttered past the seawall.

I can't complain, I got great views of a good lifer and 'discovered' an excellent site that I would love to return to some time for some general birding.