Friday, 11 April 2014

Pied piper of Empingham

After the second of my meetings in Manchester i had a drive back to London. Shame not to break the journey somewhere and the previous day a pied-billed grebe had cropped up at Rutland Water. This meant crossing the Pennines on the way back, which in itself was beautiful drive albeit a slow one with lots of lorries.
I got to the designated part of the lake, near the sailing club, at about 2pm. the lane was already full with cars and i just had to follow a short track to a bay where about 10 blokes were studying a small area of water. Just as i arrived LGRE was leaving, so i knew it must be the right place.
The pied-billed grebe is a bird I've seen before, at Ham Wall, and also frequently whilst in the USA. It's still a cracking bird though. I only had to wait about 5 minutes before it popped up from behind some willows and was vigorously fishing about 50 yards out. Unfortunately my camera then threw a fault and refused to talk to me so no photos!! I stayed for about 30 minutes with what was a great bunch. Three NGB's (next generation birders) had been there for a few hours and it was nice to see them so involved. Also had a good chat with another bloke who was in a manual wheelchair. He lives in Boston which is dead flat so he was pointing out how slopes really kill you when you have to push yourself, your wheelchair, scope etc and all across rough ground.... Keeps you fit!!
as an addendum to that, i noted that today (11th) its not been seen so this could be a well-timed twitch.
After that i nipped down the lake to Manton Bridge. A pair of ospreys nest on the lake and the female had been sitting for about 4 days. You can see the nest, which is on an artificial pole in the lake, either from a hide, which is a long walk and costs money, or for free from the bridge on the main road. I chose the bridge. The female was on the nest and looking well settled. Twice the male flew in, never settling and not with fish but showing her a bit of attention. Once he had to see off a red kite that got a bit close. There were good numbers of hirundines over the lake, including both house and sand martins which were my first for the year.
I was chatting with another birder who made a good point. At the same point time we were (in Rutland) looking at an osprey seeing off a red kite whilst a little egret was stalking the far bank. 20 years ago and one of those would have had a proper twitch going, now only one of them is even worth a trip!!! Strange how things change.
Up to 180 species against strict BOU rules, or 184 against the slightly more relaxed 400 club rules.