Tuesday 30 August 2022

Greater Sand Plover: Cleveland, Redcar

Although the Greater Sand Plover was found on the evening of the 25th, we all had various family commitments preventing us from making the trip until today. Positive news of the bird's continued presence yesterday saw us set off on the 250 miles north at 4am. After a trouble-free journey, we pulled into the Majuba car park four hours later. After a 1.5km walk along the beach, we were soon looking at the Greater Sand Plover busily feeding among the Ringed Plovers. After watching it for over an hour it suddenly disappeared, later to be re-found opposite the bandstand at the car park end of the beach. This bird must surely be the same individual that was present at St Combs in Aberdeenshire earlier in the month.

A scan of the sea, beach, and rocks produced Gannet, Fulmar, Curlew, Whimbrel, Shag, Common Tern, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, and Redshank.

The first record for Britain was in 1978 at Pagham Harbour in West Sussex. A 1st winter bird that was present from the 9th December until the 1st January.

This species normally breed in the Middle East to Central Asia and winters in Southern Asia to Australasia and Southern Africa.

The area the Plover was feeding in when we arrived

Greater Sand Plover

In previous days there had been reports of a Red-backed Shrike a short distance away at South Gore, so we headed that way hoping to connect with it. After a brief search of the area with no success and other birders reporting they had, had no luck all morning we moved across the road and scanned the bay below. Several Little Terns were seen feeding in the flooded areas below and a local birder put us onto a single Curlew Sandpiper.

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Purple Heron: Weston Turville Reservoir, Buckinghamshire

A juvenile Purple Heron was reported at Weston Turville Reservoir on Monday, At the time we were at Rainham Marshes hoping the Wryneck would reappear, having gone missing some 2-3 hours earlier!

Yesterday there were regular reports of the bird's continued presence, and when it was again reported this morning we made the forty-five-mile journey into Buckinghamshire. Parking in the layby just outside the reservoir we climbed the steps to find a pleasant little Nature Reserve with fishing and sailing included. 

We took the path alongside the reservoir and soon joined a small group of birders. They were looking at a distant Willow tree, and the juvenile Purple Heron was perched among the branches. Apart from a couple of very brief flights, it remained in these trees throughout our visit.

Not the most inviting signage!

The Purple heron was perched in the trees at the back of the reservoir in the middle of the photo below.

Purple Heron

Below is a short video, filmed through the reeds while trying to avoid falling into the reservoir.

Monday 22 August 2022

Wryneck, Rainham Marshes

A late morning call from Brian had us heading to our local reserve of Rainham Marshes, hoping to connect with a Wryneck. It had been present yesterday and there had been a constant stream of reports throughout this morning.

We arrived at Rainham around 12 and headed out along the path towards the "shooting Butts". The Wryneck was perched up in its favoured roosting tree. We were told that it regularly flew from this tree down onto the footpath and fed along the edges, but after twenty minutes of watching it in the tree, it flew in the opposite direction and into the adjoining field. Despite several hours of scanning, it was not seen again today. 

This was my first Wryneck since 2019, mainly due to covid restrictions. 


Monday 8 August 2022

Cape Gull: Grafham water, Cambridgeshire

Reports of a potential first for Britain yesterday and I had managed to miss all the reports! 

Brian managed to visit the site yesterday as he was only 30 miles away after working all day in his son's garden. I was left hoping the Cape Gull would remain for at least a further day to get the opportunity to visit.

At 5.30am the gull was reported as still present, we met up with Brian and were on the road by 6am. After a relatively short trip (63 miles) along the M25 and A1, we arrived at Grafham Water and headed along the walkway/cycle path bordering the reservoir. In the distance, we could see a large gathering of birders near the water tower. We soon joined them and quickly located the Cape Gull, which was resting on the railings leading to the tower. Panic over! we could now study the bird in more detail.

The Cape Gull spent the majority of the time we were on site resting on the railings, but did fly down to  the reservoir edge to feed on a dead trout, and occasionally flew down onto the water's surface when photographers threw bread onto the bank although it didn't seem remotely interested in the bread

There were Lesser black-backed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls, and numerous Black-headed Gulls present on the railings allowing for some nice comparisons between the larger species. The Cape Gull was slightly larger than the Yellow-legged Gulls and had a massive bill and long greenish legs.

There may be up to five subspecies of Kelp Gulls with L.d.dominicanus being the most widespread and found in New Zealand, Antarctica, and South America, whereas subspecies L.d.vetula commonly known as Cape Gull is found in Southern Africa.

The water tower and railings