Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Black-winged Stilt & Bempton

Sunday 15th April 2012
Not such an early start today as at 5.00am we set off for Willow Tree Fen, near Spalding, Lincolnshire. The SATNAV took us down small lanes but eventually got us there, a surprise being that no one else was at the reserve. With a black-winged stilt on offer this rather surprised us, especially as you could see the bird albeit distantly from the car park.

Wanting closer views we walked into the cold northerly towards the distant hides. Birds were few in number with just one swallow and one chiff seen as well as a few meadow pipits [no water pipits Beardy], gulls and ducks.

Eventually we reached the hide we thought the stilt was in front of but no views of it when opening the shutters. It was on the other side of a stretch of phraggy, tucked up against them to shelter from the wind and feed along the edge of the water found there. It did give some close views but was mostly hidden so back to the car.

A Lifer for Chatty UTB and yet another good year tick bird, Olly Clam suggested Bempton RSPB reserve with its seabird massed chalky cliffs so off we set.

Now you may not know it but the same Clam has got a thing for bridges so we had to go over the 5th biggest suspension bridge in the world, The Humber Bridge. The toll for it had just been reduced from £3.00 to £1.50 so a bargain for Olly.

Bempton with a strong, cold north wind in your face was bracing and fresh but exciting with gannets and auks and kittiwakes by the thousand. Surely this RSPB reserve must be in every birders top ten as one gets so close to the birds; well they come close to you as they glide along at eye level at times seemingly close enough to touch. One very friendly gannet came alarmingly close!

                                                     Gordon The Gannet - our new mascot

Scanning the sea we soon added puffin to the year list and fulmar also. The cliffs had mostly kittiwakes and gannets with a few guillemots, razorbills and herring gulls. How pure are the rock/feral doves? A couple of tree sparrows were even on the cliffs.

Now Bearded Clam had seen woodlarks on Cannock Chase a few days before and in usual p*ss taking mode every skylark seen or heard was said to be a woodlark; not that Captain Clam was questioning the birding prowess of the much larger, solidly built Beardy B*stard Clam! Suffice to say that there were a few woodlarks singing in the fields next to the cliffs.

One could see an approaching April shower and luckily we didnt head for the centre for shelter. Instead we stood on a newly erected Gilleards [note well Upton Warren] platform looking out over a spectacular section of the cliffs. As the shower approached a fabulous rainbow appeared which being below our eye level assumed an almost circular appearance. Beautiful!

Back at the centre, after warming hot drinks and the purchase of Gordon the Gannet, our mascot to be glove puppet [see above], we watched the tree sparrows and eventually set off for Carsington Water.

On arrival at this large Derbyshire reservoir we set about searching for the great northern diver that had been there for some time. Blackcap and willow warbler were seen along the pathway to the nature centre, with more tree sparrows at the feeding station there.

Down to the south end of the dam and the bird required was found by our ever vigilant Olly Clam at some distant out over the res; Olly Clams 200th bird for the year.

A stop off at on the suggestion of Bearded Clam made that 201 with a lone corn bunting atop an oak tree, accompanied by a dozen or so yellowhammers and a pair of little owls. The nearby gravel pit had around 100 or so hirundines, mostly sand martins.

The end of yet another successful Clam Day clamtastic!

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