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!