Monday, 11 September 2017

Distant memories

Another Monday and another chance to catch up on the Autumn bird fest. As I asked for in my last post, this time there was a lifer on offer. The bird in question was a first winter citrine wagtail. A bit of a connoisseurs bird this one. In full breeding plumage a very smart yellow and grey/ black bird, like a grey wagtail but with a brilliant yellow head. First summers though are quite dull grey and can be hard to tell apart from their pied, grey or yellow cousins. They are rare in the UK, not mega but often under reported and outside of the far north often one-day wonders. It is also quite close to the top of my wanted list for birds seen by other people but not me!!
So, when one popped up in Minsmere on the Suffolk coast on Saturday and was still there on Sunday I knew what Monday morning had in store. If you leave early it's an easy drive and I was in the car-park just after 7.30. Even better the phone alerted to me the fact that it had already been seen at 6.45. This was doubly good. First, it hadn't done an overnight flit. Second, it had been seen from any one of three hides, all of which were some distance apart. This time, it was from the East hide, closest to the beach so a swift 15 minute walk got me there. Surprisingly I was on my lonesome though. On Sunday, the RSPB put out a tweet saying the hide was full and people were queuing to get in: I had it to my myself.

The East scrape is an area of shallow lagoons and islands. It was clear there were a lot of birds there - both godwits, avocet, ruff, dunlin, ringed plover, spotted and common redshank and lots of ducks. Also, you could see quite a few wagtails but most of them were right at the back of the scrape - on the right hand side of the bund in the lower photo. Still, with my 'scope I gave them all a good going over and fortunately within a few minutes I got onto the bird - mainly grey on the back, lighter underneath and with very defined wing-bars. It's facial markings were very plain as well and no sign of a black bib. By now, a few other birders were arriving and after losing it for about 20 minutes we did get it a bit closer and could see if feeding in the long grass in front of the hide. It never exactly showed well, but well enough to be totally happy with the ID and to claim a life tick. It eventually flew off towards to some ponies in front of North hide so I called it a day and went for a stroll.
The rest of the reserve was very quiet in a stiff breeze.

Even the famous "sluice bushes", often a magnet for migrants only held a couple of chiffchaffs along with the perpetually cross resident robins.
The beach, although devoid of birds, did have a nice covering of plants on it, including these rather magnificent horned poppies.

the highly structural sea kale,
and the spiky eryngium or sea holly.

I did try for a wryneck further up the coast but that had decided to do an overnight flit, so I called it a day quite early and headed home to beat the hell that is the M25. Still, pretty pleased with that as a day. First lifer of the Autumn and bad weather all week up to Friday looks good to perhaps drive in a few birds from the USA - black and white warbler anyone!!??