Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bittern twice

I had originally planned to visit several sites today in the hope of catching the tail end of last week's migration bonanza. As it turned out, after a few domestic duties, I ventured out at midday and spent about three and a half hours in the hide at Cresswell Pond. There is now reasonable mud spit to the right of the hide.

The highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of two Bitterns (much to the consternation of a nearby Heron), one of which displayed extravagantly to the other and eventually disappeared stage right. Then the other vanished in the reeds. One reappeared about an hour later, giving a good neck stretching display as it skulked in the reed fringe.

The other star of the show was a Red Crested Pochard. I first saw one about forty years ago, but dismissed it as an escape. The opinion of those in the hide better qualified to judge than I, felt that the number of RCP's in the country, plus a healthy breeding population in Holland, makes this a reasonable record to count. So my meagre life list is one short of 250.

There were lots of Golden Plovers and Lapwings on the far left spit and a very large flock of Canada Geese. One male and at least four female Pintails were also present near the spit. Three Scaup mingled with a good number of Tufties and Goldeneye. Two Red Breasted Mergansers arrived mid afternoon. The lower water table drew a large number of Mallards and Teals in front of the hide and four Little Grebes played 'chase' around the fringes.

At about four o'clock, seven Whoopers landed. One group of two adults and two juveniles were clearly a family, the others all seemed to be adults, although one showed signs of brown around the head but looked far too white to be this year's young.

There had been a Curlew Sandpiper, but one suspect turned out to be a Dunlin with a white breast. A single Ruff joined the waders on the mud in the late afternoon.

So no migrant tweets, but plenty of tales from visitors to the hide who witnessed last week's masses of Goldcrests, and the Bluetails. However the Bitterns made this a special day. Derek from Sunderland has taken some brilliant shots of both birds, some of which are on Bird Forum. The bird in the water was spreading it's wings and appeared almost to invert them in a manner similar to one of the Great Crested Grebe's display postures.

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