Waders return, moths and a seabird adventure!

The majority of the start of the month was spent on holiday, but a few patch visits were squeezed in beforehand. Highlights included 4 common sandpipers and a green sandpiper on 3rd and a brief flyby of a great white egret on 4th. The long journey up north then began, with a good friend of mine, Harriet Adams. We’d planned a short trip in Seahouses (Northumberland) and it was excellent.

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Northumberland coastline

Staying at Springhill Farm, we were a short walk from the harbour, and had daily yellowhammers and skylarks from the bedroom, among others. Good views of the Farne Isles too, with gannets (and I’m sure countless other seabirds had I brought a scope) also visible from the bedroom. Not bad!

The purpose of the stay, and undoubtedly the main highlight, was a day on the Farne Isles, with the morning spent on Staple Island and the afternoon on Inner Farne. It’s safe to say I’d never seen so many seabirds in my life til the moment the boat set off! The whole experience was awesome – the sights, sounds and smells. Pictures and footage just don’t do it justice, so I’d thoroughly recommend a visit if you’ve never been. Seabirds everywhere, and being pecked and sat on by an arctic tern is definitely a memory that’ll stick with me.

Other highlights from our holiday included a hare, metres from our bedroom one morning, and a tree sparrow – only my 2nd – hopping about in front of it. Harriet and I had been enjoying the hare, after I excitedly dragged her out before breakfast (I’d already begun a pre-breakfast exploration and didn’t get far before sprinting back), and were even more excited upon realising the sparrow I was photographing wasn’t “any old” sparrow! Where nature is involved, it doesn’t take much to excite or bring happiness to me, but then nature is wonderful. The scenery too was lovely, and walking along the coastal path with the 3 hirundines species and swifts flying low all around us was a great experience. It’s nice to have carefree moments and to enjoy the commoner species.

A trip to Ham Wall, Somerset, was in store for 11th as a collared pratincole had been found there the night before. Dave Stevenson, Dave Wallace, Ian Calderwood and I headed down late morning and were enjoying the bird by lunch time, especially when it flew around, like a tern or hirundine and didn’t seem wader like at all! It was lovely, and with a supporting cast of bittern, great white egret and 2 glossy ibis too!

Collared Pratincole 11th July

Collared Pratincole, Ham Wall, 11th July 2016

The next target was little bittern. However, after an hour an a half of not seeing a little bittern (though we did hear it “singing” which was cool), Dave suggested we headed home, via a detour to give Montague’s harriers a go. It was a good shout, as within minutes of stepping out of the car Ian picked up a lovely male gliding above the tree line – wow, my first one too! We then moved a short distance along the road, and were lucky enough to see four in the air at once, with great views including one over the road! A superb end to the day!!

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The female Montagu’s Harrier

…and the “singing” little bittern

Patch has seen a trickle of returning and passage waders. The week beginning 12th, included the first returning snipe, as well as 80 black-tailed godwits, a greenshank, 2 dunlin, ruff, 2 little ringed plovers, ringed plover, up to 3 common sandpipers and a green sandpiper. Not bad! Seawatching has been fairly quiet of late, although 3 common scoter and a gannet offshore on 17th and 18th was nice to see.

Common and green sandpipers were present most days for the rest of the month, with greenshank most days too. A nice pre-work surprise on 20th was a flock of 13 greenshank dropping onto the beach in the sea mist – the highest number I’ve ever seen here; impressive sight indeed! Other signs of autumn migration include small numbers of yellow wagtails during the second half of the month, garden and willow warblers on 23r, a few grey wagtails passing over and a knot on the scrapes. As the days went by, there were definite signs of many phyllocs and acros moving through, including a number of singing willow warblers on 31st.

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The flock of 13 Greenshank at Hill Head on 20th July

The main highlight on patch this month has to be nuthatch, a rather rare bird for the reserve! It was gutting to discovered I’d missed 2 on the morning of 18th along the canal path, so decided to check Bridge Street each morning since in case they were present again. It paid off – on 22nd upon getting out of the car, the loud “twett twett” calls could be heard from the car park; bingo! 2 nuthatch were once again hanging around the car park for a short while at dawn. It’s the first time I’d come across nuthatch here having missed all previous sightings, so very happy indeed!

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Nuthatch: now that is true patch gold!

With it being summer, insects have been enjoyed as well as birds. Many moths thanks to Dave W, including a trip to Pagham Harbour to see a rare migrant – the latin. Whilst there, we were also shown splendid brocade and marbled grass veneer; also rather rare migrants to the UK; three for the price of one! Butterflies are about too, so Dave S and I paid a visit to South Browndown on 23rd to see grayling and purple hairstreaks and were successful. Another species that’s been enjoyed is the tawny longhorn beetle – a ‘red data book’ species Dan Houghton and Alan Butler stumbled across along the canal path one morning; great to see and thanks to Alan for pointing me in the right direction!

I have also begun moth trapping again after investing in my own trap. I recorded 30 species on 28th, including a migrant silver Y, 13 blastobasis rebeli (very localised species) and a rather lovely garden tiger.

So, the patch year list is up to 161, with 5 months of the year left. Who knows what may turn up… The best time of the year is just around the corner!

(…and here’s hoping the Minsmere’s purple swamphen hangs about….)

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