Feb 3, 2012

Out east today

We had a particularly fine afternoon birding in bright and still weather. A blast out east to see the local celeb birds seemed in order. First off Alfie and I had a peep in and managed to see the Long eared owls. They were fairly flighty so we shot off quick and left them to it. A quick pear across the neepy field nearby produced a mixed finch flock with Twite and a few Linnet along with a mass of Pigeons. A run down to the beach then and we immediately lighted on Morris’s grey plover hanging out at the end of the sands. This was accompanied by a few Turnstones and Ringed plover on the sand and a few Purple sandpipers on the rocky point. The bay held small numbers of Long tailed duck and mergansers but little else. Retracing our steps a bit we backtracked to the slip at Newark bay in the hope of finding the Grey phalarope that was there a couple of days ago. This wasn’t to be tho and my second dip on a grey phal in a week rolled over me…mmmm…The whole shore here was in the last stage of the falling tide and was devoid of birds. Below us as we looked from the car park Turnstones and Purple sands picked away feeding. Nice but not enough to keep us fixated and the decision to jump in the car and head for St Peters pool parking spot had scopes quickly down and heaved in the boot with a flurry. It might be bright but it was decidedly chilly on the newly shorn lugs !! Its only a short haul to the pool and as we come down the hill where it is visible before us its obvious there is a lot of activity across the exposed sands. The parking is at the far side and has the advantage of having the sun kind of behind us for the view. Although the sun has begun its slow climb in the sky its still pretty mean here after midday and a cap with a peak is a major bonus in the afternoons. Parking up we jump out quick, ultimate driving machine they may be but you cant see worth a fuck through BMW windscreens with bins!! Before us to the left on the waters edge a flock of thirty Dunlin were scratching about accompanied by a couple of Oyster catchers. Little more was in front of us tho and the main flocks are way beyond the groins. They scope out well and there is a huge amount of life across there all be it a long way away!! Its not a hard decision next and we pick our way down the slippery rubble and on to the sandy shore and walk in on the birds. On a big open beach if you approach steadily and don’t faff about you can walk down on the feeding birds without spooking them and get in to close enough proximity to enjoy superb views. We reach the line of concrete blocks left over from the war (I think) beyond this a flock of Oystercatcher raise up there heads and become aware of us as we stop for the first time and stand up tripods. They are backed by a flock of Ringed plover and with them and beyond are Dunlin. In a slow perceptible wave they seem to lift up and swing enmass to land a hundred yards further down the beach. As it slowly settles we move forwards again, beneath our feet the grey sands are littered with shells of all sizes but mainly cockles. Here and there are tracks where cockles have moved over the surface and every where bird tracks! Another hundred yards and we are right on top of feeding Ringed plover with the main body of the flocks getting closer and closer. In the distance flocks are rising and falling back to the ground with a long flock not moving or preening looking well settled. A good view of these soon proves them to be a flock of Knot. The Plover and Dunlin take to the air swing and settle before all coming up once again to disappear behind us some where. The last move forwards takes us another couple of hundred yards and now we have an outstanding view of the lot, its even begun to surround and envelop us. This is what it is all about!! We are static, no immediate threat and largely ignored, spot on. In view 60 Widgeon, 20 odd Dunter, 30 Curlew 3 Hoodies, 125 Bar tailed godwit 1 Blacktailed godwit, 150 Knot, 3-500 Dunlin, 150 Ringed plover, 130 Oystercatchers. There was more than this spread about but it was fast counting to get an idea of what was about across the shore. In the cold bright clear light the views through the scopes were stunning taking you right in to the heart of the action. All of this consumed an hour and enjoyable as it was we withdrew and moved slowly out retracing out steps along the waters edge. The return was a bit in to the sun with the car looking like it was miles away but we were back soon enough. Next stop was Burray, here we headed for the back of the Sands. Some where in here was our last east side celebrity of the day. Pulling up at the small slip the first bird we see is the wintering Whimbrel we have come to look for. This bird is quite famous in birding circles here and has wintered for a few years at least along this small piece of shore. This tho is the first time I have seen it although I might have during the bird race last year, cant mind. If all birds were as easy to find as this today it would be a cushy life !! There’s still a little light left yet so we shoot over to the forth barrier beach for a look and at the far end of the beach there is a small flock of waders. Moving to the other end we have the sun behind us and fantastic views of a flock of thirty or more Sanderling skittering about the edge of the wee breaking waves. I love these birds with there vibrant white and black bar and there never ending energetic search for food. All to soon tho dog walkers bear down and they are gone, moving to and fro even landing right by us before disappearing far down the rocky shore. Its enough for us tho The sun is low and the temperature seems to be dropping fast. Time to wend wur way back to town well replete after our wee birding feast!!…The last birds of the day would have to be the roost of Curlew along the Holm village shore there must have been hundreds between the Commodore and the pier in the gathering gloom…lovely jublly

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