Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Back in the saddle with a sub-optimal bird

Due to Summer holidays I've not been out birding for ages. I'll be posting a few blogs about my trip to Botswana over then ext couple of days as I've finally got the many photos edited!!
Now I'm back though and the Autumn reverse migration has begun it would be rude not to rejoin the fray. So, a long-staying (well, a few days) subalpine warbler at Landguard NR near Felixstowe got me out of bed at 5pm. There is always a nervousness about long-staying birds, that you will be the person who goes for it the day after it left. So, I was quite pleased with a foggy drive up to the coast. Birds are much more likely to leave on clear, calm nights.
The reserve is right next to Felixstowe container port, literally sandwiched between the massive container loading area and the sea. I don't think I've ever been there before and it does look impressive, especially the giant contained ships leaving only what looks a few hundred meters out to sea.
The bird was reported as being near the Customs House, which involved about a 5 minute walk from the car park. I could see and hear there were a lot of commoner migrants around - willow warblers singing, quite a few swallows and martins moving through. The Custom's House is a modern office with ample trees and bushes either side of the entrance. I was just looking around and wondering where to start when another, Steve Entwistle from Mersea, arrived and pointed me in the direction of the favoured bush. He lowered my spirits though by telling me tales of Lee Evans spending 5 hours and another person taking 8 hours to get the bird. Life though is kind sometimes and it took us about a minute. I was just looking at the correct area when a small bird with a whitish throat showed in the tops. Over the next 30 minutes or so we watched it feeding vigorously. It would disappear for a few minutes then pop back up.We never got great views, or at least never got extended views as it was always on the move, but I did manage to capture these record shots.

 The bird is part of a set of two sub-species, eastern and western subalpine warblers. This one if of the eastern race. Please don't ask me to describe the differences as telling this one apart from a whitethoat is hard enough. At the moment most authorities don't split them as full species but it is reckoned to be one of the more likely to be split in the next couple of years, probably after more DNA sequencing!!
I then spent a further 2 hours on site, looking for pied flycatchers which were there (one was ringed early morning) but couldn't find any. I did pick up purple sandpiper on the pier.
Finally I moved 45 minutes up the coast to Minsmere. It was very busy with families enjoying the last day or so of the holidays and the hides were packed. It was pretty quiet but most of the usual suspects were present on the scrape, including curlew sandpiper which is a year-tick. There were quite a few snipe around, including this relatively obliging one,

as well as greenshank, common sandpiper, blackwits, redshank and spot reds.
With the migration now getting going I need to keep my eyes open for some more opportunities to get out and see some more cracking birds!