Sunday, 24 February 2013

Pied-billed Grebe, Somerset & Devon day trip

Leaving Loughton at 5am this morning, with RSPB reserve Ham Wall in Somerset the destination. A 179-mile drive ahead of us.
Two and a half hours after leaving Loughton, we are pulling into the car park at Ashcott Corner. 
Last year we headed West from the car park to view the two Long-billed Dowitchers that were present. Today we turn East and cross the road and make our way along the track heading towards the second viewing platform.
On the walk, down two Great White Egrets and a  Marsh Harrier are seen and a Water Rail is heard. Reaching the viewing platform a small group of birders are already present and after a short scan of the lake, the Pied-billed Grebe is quickly found. It's distant but we get good views through the scope.
Present since the 15th February it seems to be feeding well, and while watching the grebe it catches what looks like a Roach and after a bit of a struggle, it manages to swallow its catch.
With plans in place, we don't really have time to look for the Temminck's Stint at Steart, but Brian gives it go as we are not too far from the site. Soon after arriving we quickly decide that it is going to take too much time out of the day to find the stint.
At this point dad thinks Brian is heading for home, But Brian has other ideas and is heading further from home.
He's heading for Devon, with four more target birds on the list. First up is an American Wigeon at Dart Farm Fishing Lakes at Topsham. As we pull into the car park dad and Brian head to the reserve centre to get the latest information. As I wait in the car the Wigeon comes up on the pager.
A quick drive down the track to the small car park, a short walk around a small lake and we are at the viewing screen. A flock of around 100 Wigeon are feeding on the short grass, and among them is the American Wigeon. 
A 1st winter Rose-coloured Starling has been present around Milbury Lane in Exminster for the best part of three months. So with it being only five miles away, it's our next target.
A couple of drives along Milbury lane and the surrounding roads doesn't produce any sightings of the bird, so we decide to park the car, split up and go in search of it. 10-15 minutes later Brian rings to say he's found the bird. A quick run up to the top of Milbury Lane, a walk through an alleyway and we join Brian in the church cemetery. The bird is perched near the top of a lone tree behind the cemetery. We grabbed some good views of the bird before it flew from the tree. With other target birds still to try for and time not on our side, we left the other three birders to try to relocate it.

We are now some fifty miles from Ernesettle Creek, the location of a Lesser Yellowlegs. Upon arrival, we Park along Lakeside Drive and head down the hill towards the creek. Plenty of Redshanks are present along with 3-4 Spotted Redshanks, Curlew, Dunlin and a single Greenshank.
With no sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs, we again decide to split up and each take a section of the creek to scan. Ten minutes of searching with no luck, Brian rings to say he's got the bird at the far eastern end of the creek. A dash along the footpath letting dad know on the way and we join Brian on the foreshore to get some good scope views of the bird.

Cirl Bunting

Leaving just time for one more stop. We head for Broadsands and hope to see Cirl Buntings. It's a bird I've wanted to see for quite a while. Having only ever been to Devon once before, and that with the local football team on tour.
We arrive at the pay and display car park and make our way through to the unused second car park. A birder is standing at the far end with bins trained on a small flock of birds.

As we approach closer we can see they are Cirl Buntings. The next half an hour is spent watching 20+ of these delightful birds as they drop down from the trees to feed on the scattered seed put out by local birders.
With four lifers and five year ticks added today it's just the 250 miles left ahead of us before we reach home.
A fantastic days birding, thanks to Brian without whom it just would not have happened or been possible. 

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