All posts by Dave Roberts

A very memorable week in Lincs.

The week commencing  Mon 22nd Jan. turned out to be a very productive time for me, with some good finds, at least at local level. Monday morning I was keen to get my Marston webs count in, as I’d been away in Gloucs. at the weekend. Nothing overly exciting, a pinkfoot was amongst the c.450 greylags.

Tuesday I decided to nip over to the Kirkby/Woodhall area. Firstly a drive along the banks of the Witham; 22 goosanders noted between the Bain mouth and Kirkstead. Next point of call was Woodhall airfield pits. There was lots and lots of wildlife here. Much scanning through the wigeon eventually turned up a strikingly different bird showing green on the face! Alas it wasn’t the much-prized American, but a hybrid Eurasian X American wigeon, or wacky variant. Very smart duck though. After observing this bird through the telescope at length (it was always quite distant), the short journey to Kirkby pits was made. Again there were birds aplenty to look at, a notable count of 12 redshanks were on an island along with a black-tailed godwit. There are always a lot of large gulls here and I picked up an Iceland gull (2nd winter) on the tip pit. Well, that wasn’t a too shoddy day. The following morning (Weds), another patch visit to Marston beckoned. 2 green sands, 2 chiffchaff, grey wag and 19 curlews were noted. It was getting quite late when I scanned through the large graylag flock. I picked up on a bird that initially I thought was the regularly seen pinkfoot. But a moment later alarm bells rang-it had orange, not pink legs. It wasn’t straightforward as it had been feeding in a muddy field, its bill was covered in mud and legs didn’t look too bright. However, the structure, size, shape and general appearance spelt Bean goose! I circulated the pics between a few mates and posted them on twitter. It was one. 

The following morning the goose was still there and there was no doubt now. It had had a good wash and brush up and was looking superb.The goose attracted one or two visitors and was still in place over the weekend.

On Friday a good search of the sewage works area was called for and it came up trumps with a cracking Siberian tristis chiffchaff. It was easily identifiable on plumage, showing no green tones at-all. Underparts were a lovely silky whitish and the legs were black. Chestnut ear coverts and beady dark eye all added to the look. At times, from below it almost reminded me of a non breeding plumage red breasted flycatcher. This was a really neat looking little bird, frequenting the same bushes as last winter’s lesser whitethroat. There was a regular collybita chiffy too, sometimes alongside for comparison. Staying with the bird for some time, I wanted to hear it call, it wasn’t doing!, it just fed constantly on the many small flies here. Eventually I heard a bullfinch-like call, just once.

Mandtii black guillemot Cut end lincs

On Thurs 7th Dec 2017, a trip over to Cut End beckoned. I rarely go more than a fortnight without visiting this corner of the Wash and, more often than not get it to myself as not many are prepared to make the walk out. There was a strong wind blowing, with cold, squally showers of rain and hail. I fancied it for a sheltering grebe or diver, quite often birds stop off here for a while enjoying the feeding in the calm waters at the confluence of the rivers Witham and Welland.

I’d enjoyed a decent morning’s birding with slavonian grebe, 4 flypast long-tailed ducks, a great northern diver, eiders, mergansers and a shag. With the rain, wind and hail lashing the hide I didn’t  even bother opening the Southeast facing window until late morning, when it had abated a little. Waders were resting on the rocks and a few ducks, mainly wigeon and pintail swam in the Welland mouth. I scanned the river upstream and had my first brief sighting of the guillemot-for all of two seconds, before it flew upstream a little and out of view, aaaargh! I knew in an instant that it was a black guillemot. In the very same moment I was struck by how white it appeared, especially in flight. My previous experience is mainly of summer plumaged birds off the west coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland, I did however locate a winter plumaged individual off Holme, Norfolk a few years back, that had been seen off Hunstanton the previous day. I recall this one being mainly dark looking, with the wing patch the brightest part. My bird looked very different indeed.

Following my first glimpse I had a very nervous, twitchy wait until it drifted back downstream a bit and back into view. It was still mega-distant and it was very murky and dull. It kept disappearing, I had to get photographic evidence, nobody was going to believe me! Getting onto it for digi-scoped pics, in-between dives and frequent short flights proved very difficult. I was panicking slightly. The photos I managed could barely prove it was a bird, never mind putting it to species! My pics were posted on twitter and resulted in some classic tongue-in-cheek comments ranging from ‘its a plastic bag’, to ‘pile of poo’ on the hide window. Someone suggested I delete the pics and submit a sketch instead. Someone asked which way it was flying, well it was sat on the water! At least another birder got to see it, Paul Sullivan making it down same day, sqeezing in the walk there and back before going on to do his 12 hour nightshift.

The bird was still present next day, I couldn’t get until Saturday myself, but most of the County listers got to see it over the weekend. Most needed it for their county list, the last black guilly was about thirty years previously. This was about the twelth record for Lincs. 

  ONn Saturday the bird had switched from the Welland to the much closer Witham and some better photos emerged. That night, following the initial musings that the bird could, possibly be of a rarer, northern subspecies, discussions took place, mainly via twitter. By Saturday evening, after more photos, it was starting to become a more likely candidate for ‘mandtii’, from the high arctic, as all the diagnostic features of this form were starting to be revealed. Top men were on the job by now and lots of contributers were chipping in with articles, id info and photos.  I’m grateful to everyone. It was all very exciting. I mean, possible first for the UK…. Pics I obtained on the Saturday were fractionally better. Others got better.

The last reliable report was from the Sunday (10th), when top Norfolk birder Steve Gantlett was one of very few people to even attempt the journey and trek in the poor conditions. Well, he certainly got his reward! managing the best photos of all. So well deserved, he had the bird for five minutes only, in an all day stint. His pics proved very popular and showed all the features in greater detail. This added greatly to the id and all were happy. I don’t normally drink more than a single beer in the evening but that night……

Following three pics and header photo courtesy of Steve Gantlett at http://www.Cleybirds.com 

Black Guillemot, Cut End, Lincolnshire, December 2017 (Steve Gantlett).
Black Guillemot, Cut End, Lincolnshire, December 2017 (Steve Gantlett).
Black Guillemot, Cut End, Lincolnshire, December 2017 (Steve Gantlett).

Not a bad week in Lincs.

Mon 24th.

It kicked off on Monday afternoon, when news came through of a black stork at Dunsby fen. Arriving about five, I had just missed it, it had flown off from its favourite spot. There were plenty of birders around and people began to spread out down the fen in search, though access away from the road is very limited. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I connected with the stork. Trev Lee had been working in Northants and detoured this way home. Only a few birders were looking now, (the ones that still needed to see it, I bet the others were celebrating at home and going through their brilliant photos!). We decided to walk alongside a hedgerow to see if we could get any better views of the dyke, when all of a sudden there it was, flying low, right in front of us looking monstrous. It must have been there all along, close to where people were standing. We lost views as it flew behind trees but were well happy. Never did see on the deck. It later roosted in a tree for the night. 

Tues 25th.

Checked a couple of local sites. Denton res was quiet, nothing of note, really. Saw a marsh harrier hunting near Syston. At Marston a juvenile peregrine was over the area for fully ten minutes. 16 curlews, 4 green sands and a grass snake seen.

Weds 26th.

Went over to Freiston shore for the evening. On Tuesday Richard Doan had found a very rare marsh sandpiper here. He only had it for a matter of minutes in the morning, obtaining photos and video. It was seen again later in the day.There was no further sign on weds. I watched the res from about 6:30pm to dusk, enjoying plenty of wader action in the nice light, before a heavy shower. Best birds were 2 curlew sands, (one wearing a yellow flag, but I couldn’t read it), wood sand, spotted redshank, 26 greenshank, ad med gull, ruffs, common sands.

Fri 28th.

I had planned a full dayer at the wash, heading back to Freiston again rather than the more popular Frampton. What a good decision that was. The reservoir was the first place to check again, it was nowhere near high tide and only a few waders were on it compared to the other evening; 2 wood sands and a curlew sand, several common sands etc. Then I noticed it!…. it was the marsh sand! A lovely little wader, with a very quick feeding action. I managed a record shot on the phone, through the scope. I only had it for about ten minutes, after taking the initial photo I observed the delicate wader through bins and scope. My plan was to take more pics but I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been pre-occupied with getting photos of a bird, only to look back and think ‘hold on a minute, I havn’t really watched that bird at all. Anyway it flew off after a while and, as far as I can tell hasn’t been again since. I felt really lucky, but then I was the only one there.

Later, a trek to the Witham mouth, where lots of curlews and whimbrels gathered. Surprisingly few waders really, just after high tide. About 150 sandwich terns fished and rested on the rocks along with a red-breasted merganser. A couple of green sands were on the shooters pool. Taking the sea wall route back, all the remaining puddles and ditches were checked incase the marsh sand was there, no luck but an early whinchat was feeding from along one of the fence lines.

Two new birds for my Lincolshire list, only my second sighting of both of them in the UK.

 

Patchblog

After being in the doldrums for a while, Marston has picked up a bit of late. A few waders have made things interesting, though the scrape just will not drop sufficiently to draw birds in. The level falls a bit during hot weather but the moment it rains, fills up again. There have been up to five green sandpipers. On the surrounding fields maxima of 18 curlew and 50 lapwings can be seen. The oystercatchers have one surviving chick which is doing well.

Pied and yellow wagtails are around in numbers, both look to have had a good breeding season in the area with many juveniles recorded. They sometimes gather on the turf fields in the evenings, my best count being c85 pied and c50 yellows. A couple of grey partridges were the first I’ve seen for a bit.

A turtle dove came to drink from the scrape one evening, what a joy! A barn owl (or two) shows occasionally late on. Odd hobby and red kites regular. Last week the Lake Windermere ringed greylag goose PZB put in an appearance for the first time since Feb. Heaven knows where it gets to.

On the 20th I was watching a buzzard when a small falcon came into my bin’s field of view. Merlin! Wow! I watched it for a good few seconds thinking to myself ‘am I sure?, its bloody early!’, but yep,   it’s jizz, behavior and appearance left me in no doubt. It was lost to view as it went over the fields, putting up a small bird, twisting and turning. It was an all brown bird, juvenile or female.

Yesterday evening I stopped off at Barkston picnic site and walked along the river towards Syston. A field was being ploughed and lots of gulls had homed in on it. I had been expecting them in the area as lots have been seen at nearby Kilvington. They were fairly distant but four yellow-legged gulls were picked out amongst the many lesser-black backs, common and black-headeds. I had been hoping to add ylg to my Marston account for the year so headed off there. On arrival I was gobsmacked-loads of gulls were loafing on the car park field. This was a great treat, they stayed here resting and preening until it was almost dark, before heading off in the direction of Kilvington Lakes. At least nine yellow-legged gulls accompanied around 650 lesser black backs. Interestingly a couple of little egrets flew in and joined the gull flock.

Trev Lee arrived to watch the gulls and we finished with a look in the hide, it was almost dark but we could see some bats flying. They were quite large and appeared to be moth catching above the poplars and over the fields.