Monday, 4 September 2017

Hip, hip, hoopoe

The second of my two "long weekend" days sent me down to the south coast. There weren't any lifers on offer, within reasonable distance anyway, so I has the choice of a Baird's sandpiper in Sussex or trying Dorset and hoping to pick up some birds on the sea or migrants grounded with bad weather overnight. Dorset won the competition so I ended up in the car park at Portland Bill with thick fog all around. The fog horn was blasting its warning into the channel and it looked pretty tough birding conditions. So I headed off to the observatory and joined about 10 other birders on the patio.
The fog gave us a small view of the sea close in to the coast but not much else. The main interest was centred on the observatory cat who had developed a limp overnight and was a bit grumpy. Coffee was being drunk and no one was really paying much attention to the birds.
"hoopoe"
A birder to my right suddenly called out and pointed to one of the trees in the garden..
"flying"
as a medium-sized bird flopped out of the tree and headed off towards the hut fields. This was not as astonishing as it might seem, as one had been seen the day before but no one was really looking for it. My view was subliminal to say the least, so I set off with four or five other birders to see if we could track it down. Two headed off right, the rest of us went left.
"it's flying" came the shout from the other birders as a golden bird shot over our heads.



My camera settings were all over the place but I managed to grab 3 photos as it flew over in the mist. You can see what it is anyway!!! This is only the second one I've seen in this country, after a famous incident a few years ago when I got badly shouted at by a posh lady for trespassing on her garden while twitching it!! They are regular visitors to the UK and probably one of the most exotic-looking.
The hordes split up and tried to find it, but there were no other sightings by the time I had left at 11.30. As a postscript it did fly into one of the mist nets around 1.30 and was ringed so I missed an in-hand view which is a shame.
Other than that it was really quiet. A wryneck was seen but I didn't get it. I did manage to get a year-tick in the form of Balearic shearwater on the sea but no skuas.
On the way back I stopped at the vast expanse of mud that is now Staines reservoir. The viewing conditions were better than last time I was there but the waders were still miles away. With a bit of help I got onto a curlew sandpiper amongst the dunlin flock. I finished the day by jamming in on a fourth year-tick with a little stint. We had been looking at a dunlin bathing quite near the causeway when I spotted a very small wader near it. Tiny in size, small, delicate beak and the characteristic tram-lines along its back marked it out as a juvenile stint.
Not a bad day. Four year-ticks taking me to 250. I've got to be looking for north of 270 from here now but as ever, lifers would be nice....