Thursday, 30 April 2015

A very long trip

Last Saturday when I came back from the work party at Maple Lodge I saw on Birdguides that a VERY rare American wader had turned up in Somerset. It was a Hudsonian Godwit. This is a mega rare bird having crossed the Atlantic "by accident". Only 3 previous sightings and none for 32 years. You could tell how rare it was by the fact it even made the daily papers with lots of photos of birders and scopes lined up.  I couldn't go Saturday or Sunday so I was quite pleased that it had disappeared again on Sunday!
Yesterday though it popped back up again at the same reserve, Meare Heath near Glastonbury. Over the last few years I've delayed going for some megas and missed them (green heron, white-tailed plover, little bustard, dusky thrush to name but a few) so I wasn't going to make the same mistake this time.
After dropping Judith off on the tube at 6.15 I blasted down the M4/ M5 towards the West Country. About half way though my phone went "ping" and a bird alert came in. "-ve Hudsonian Godwit Meare Heath". So it wasn't showing early doors. Seeing as it had already done one disappearing act my heart sank.
Still, I got there about 8.40 and the car-park, or rather car parks, were already pretty full. I pulled on my coat and threw my gear over my shoulder and followed about 10 other birders out.
The bird had been seen about 5 minutes walk away on a small scrape-like area. You could where it was as there were about 50 'scopes already pointing at it. Worryingly a few were walking back shaking their heads with a "no show" look on their faces.
The scrape was I suppose 300 yards wide by about 100 yards deep and the other side of a stream. There were about 200 hundred I guess closely-related black-tailed godwits feeding, preening and sleeping but no sign of the Hud Wit as it is known in birding shorthand. A great white egret was also present, which amazingly nowadays rarely gets you out of bed they are so common. A drake garganey lurked at the back and a pair of bitterns did a distant fly past.
Over the next 30 minutes the crowd churned a bit with a few leaving and a few arriving. Suddenly to my left was a cry of "it's just flown in, small flock, left hand edge". Where it actually came from we never found out. Technically no one saw it fly in, so it may been lurking out of sight all along.

Now here's the challenge. The bird is in the group above. This is about the magnification with a pair of binoculars. Stands out doesn't it!!! Shows how well the original did to find it. Never assume a boring flock is just a boring flock, especially in Spring and Autumn.

The photos I got were all pretty poor as it never came close. The upper one is a crop from the first photo above. The hudwit is almost in the centre facing left in the upper one and facing right in the lower one. What are you looking for? Well, it has an overall darker appearance (this is a female by the way) and lacks the whiter-belly of the black-tailed godwits.

The markings on its flanks appear almost bar-like with very little contrast between belly and back.

The  one  thing you can't see are its underwings. Diagnostically they are almost black compared to the much paler blackwit  underwing.
Anyway, apologies for the appalling quality of the photos but hopefully they may at least give you the chance of recognising one if it drops into your local reserve!!!