Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Wet Day in Wales - Never!! Yellowthroat UTB for 5 Clams

We were the first car to arrive at Rhiwderin and the first to attempt to negotiate the muddy access to the field adjacent to where the bird had been seen. Four Clams [Clear Lunacy and Madness Society] members, with another Clam in his own car, were in South Wales to look of the reported Mega, a common Yellowthroat.

Still dark, we made our way down the hill to an amphitheatre valley with well grown hedgerows and scrubby margins to await the call of ‘over here’, ‘got it’ or even just ‘oi’!

Other birders arrived in numbers and soon there were two long lines with scopes and bins scouring the bushes, bracken, long grass and bramble patches. Away from the chatting lines, individuals searched away from this area and walked the edges, all hoping to be the one to find the bird. A group gathered by a dung heap. Others by a wet ditch and as time went by and still no bird the search extended to nearby fields and hedges.

Cloudy from the start, with drizzle occasionally, rain started to fall around 10 o’ clock and the Clams decided that breakfast was in order. Brave lads we!

Soon monched up, we headed off for the nearby drake lesser scaup on offer at Cosmeston Lakes. An easy bird to find once the slippery broadwalk and wet mud had been negotiated in the rain. Yet the rain stopped as soon as we saw the drake amongst a group of 40 odd tufties. “Here’s the bird boys. I’ll just turn the tap off.”

Now one of the Clams {Stand up Oilly – Scabby Clam – Jason Oliver} had been one of the young schoolboys who had found the first ever lesser scaup for the Western Palearctic, when he and Alex Barter [The Bear] pointed out a strange duck to two local birders at Chasewater, Staffordshire way back when. A major twitch then ensued and yet now it’s a bird that, whilst still rare, is regularly seen.

Pager alert! Yellowthroat found. I texted a friend, Dave Walker one of the Upton Warren birders, who was still on site. He, more brave than we, had stayed on in the heavy rain and soon texted back to say he’d scored; the bird was on his list.

A dash back to the car, past a tame (countable for the year list?) whooper swan and a quick drive back to soggy fields. A sedate leisurely walk down the hill. Who are you kidding? A mad run down the hill, skidding to a halt in order to join the throng and the bird was soon seen by all Clams, except one who’d had to go back home to get to work. {He returned the next day and saw it.}

2.00pm – over seven hours since we’d arrived and at last the bird was secured, UTB and seen well as it emerged from brambles into a small dryish ditch to give brief views again and again. Like Monty Python’s brontosaurus sketch, this wonderful American warbler was bright yellow at one end, fatter and duller in the middle and bright yellow again at the other end. Birders almost broke out into spontaneous applause when the bird popped up facing everyone on a bramble bridge. Its bandit’s mask and pale pinkish feet standing out, small bill above the bright yellow throat. Happy faces and smiles, even laughter all round as the bird disappeared into the undergrowth, appearing again to jump up and catch a fly.

Off again to try for a Bonaparte’s gull in Cardiff but despite searching through the railings of the perimeter fence to the inaccessible water works and hundreds of black heads no bird was seen.

Down to the path adjacent to the muddy waters of the Severn Estuary – Bristol Channel with more gulls to scour. With the sun going down on our chances of yet another Yankie, three in a day was to be too much and we headed back home with two.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Clams Head South Again!

Paddyfield Warbler

And we're off again - Scabby JAson Oliver]/Chatty [Tom Cattell] and Bearded [Anthony Barter] yet no Campervan as he was on work party duties at Upton Warren.

After a 3.30am start and a cautious drive down through the snow, we arrived at Pagham Harbour. It was minus 3 degrees, with a wind chill making it more like minus 10! There were about 30 birders gathered [flocked together for warmth] on the North wall of this fantastic tidal reserve. Later we found out that the RSPB has taken over management duties as from the 3rd of February. [Brilliant - I hope it counts as another RSPB reserve - Biking Birder 2010 aka Campervan Clam]

There had been no sign of the paddyfield warbler yet this morning so everyone gathered around the small reedbed where it had last been day the previous day. We dug our heals in and prepared ourselves for a long wait. Luckily the reedbed habitat gave us bearded tit performing for our pleasure right in front of us, with 100s of brent geese wheeling overhead and large numbers of wildfowl, [wigeon, teal, pintain and shelduck] and waders feeding right behind us. Great close views of bar-tailed godwits, dunlin, redshank, ringed and grey plovers.

A shout from someone 100 yards to our right. Someone had the bird. 'Scopes carried we ran to the spot but as we approached the bird flew up from a nearby hedge over to a small reedbed and Chatty and I [Scabby] had no views. Bearded only saw it in flight. At least we all knew it was here and time would give us the prize.

Time - well two hours went by and our hands were dropping off from the cold. [Memories of the American Bittern dip at Marton Mere so many years ago]. Another shout! 200 yards off in the other direction and another mad rush to get there. Greeted by Garry Bagnell who was on the bird, we settled down to watch it ourselves. UTB!

The warbler performed for us down to 20 fett for about 5 minutes. Excellent views and all salient features duly noted.

Breakie and plans for the rest of the day. Faces stuffed and off to Black Down for the possible parrot crossbill. There hadn't been any news of the bird on the pager and we soon found out why. As we tried to get up the Downs the roads were getting more and more treacherous with snow and driving up Scotland lane we had to turn around as the Clam-mobile couldn't get through. So we decided to head on for the cattle egret at Warblington as we  all needed it for the year [Do You NEEEEEEED it?]

We arrived at Warblington at around 13.00 with no other birders present and no reports of the bird either, so we checked out the fields surrounding the church. Just black-headed gulls with a few cows. Behind the church another unchecked field and there it was. Cattle egret on the list.

Just a short ride away was Hayling Island and shore lark and snow buntings on offer. We arrived there and was greeted by the RSPB warden who was looking at the lark. Smashing looking bird, one we hadn't seen for years and 12 black-necked grebes just off shore. Another cracking clamtastic place with turnstone, curlew, dunlin and oystercatchers feeding along the shoreline.

Low cloud and low light, Bearded Clam was desperate to try for a water pipit, his bogey bird lacking from his life list. There had been some reported at Test marches so off we headed for Southampton.

40 minutes later we arrived there and a local birder told us that the bird[s] would be pretty impossible due to the bad weather. Instead we dashed down to Southampton Docks for the reported glaucous gull. Dodging the traffic we arrived at Royal Dock and started looking through the large gull flock. Another birder picked up a superb black-throated diver so yet another year tick for us all. 10 more minutes and there it was, glaucous gull - BANG!

Another clamtastic day for The Birding Clams!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Lonely Clam!

Campervan Clam here. I didn't get to go with the mega hungry clams this Sunday. They clammed their way to see a host of avian goodies; paddyfield, cattle egret, shore larks etc.
I was at Upton Warren with the dedicated few, bemoaning the new Flashes hide come shed. Now these lads and possibly myself deserve praise and a decent hide for being out in 4" s of snow carrying out a work party. Clearing some overhanging branches from the pathway before unfortunately finding 2 large holes in the fox proof fencing around the Flashes. Mind you compared to the awful fencing placed by our new hide.....
Clam on lads!