MONDAY 10 MAY (Week 19)
Allan Stewart picked me up at 0425 hours – a TAWNY OWL was calling from the wood adjacent to my house. We were about to endeavour on a trip to North Lincolnshire, where an ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE had been seen the previous evening. It was a fairly bright day, with temperatures slightly improved than of late – at 12 degrees C.
FRAMPTON MARSH RSPB (NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE)
We arrived on site at 0640 hours. Walking out to the hides was brightened up by several singing male CORN BUNTINGS, Reed Buntings, Skylarks and Linnets and after a good 15 minute walk, we eventually pitched up in the East Hide.
There was an excellent selection of bird species on offer but the target bird had not been seen since dawn – and there were about 15 people looking.
Amongst the more common fare were Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Geese, Common Shelduck, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Wigeon (pair), Coot, Moorhen, Lapwing, Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Stock Dove, Common Swift, Meadow Pipit, Western Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler.
More interesting were 1 Little Egret, 7 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE, 9 Dunlin, 5 Ruff including some beautiful males, numerous Pied Avocets, Ringed Plovers, 2 pairs of Little Ringed Plovers, a pair of Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwits, a winter-plumaged Red Knot, 2 WHIMBREL and my first CURLEW SANDPIPERS of the year – 3 summer-plumaged adults.
Three first-summer LITTLE GULLS were on the main lagoon, along with 2 immature Herring Gulls, 2 male YELLOW WAGTAILS and up to 8 NORTHERN WHEATEARS.
We had been in the hide a good hour scanning around when suddenly I heard a shout – someone had located the ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE. Remarkably, it was in exactly the same place as the evening before, roosting in the grass perhaps 50 yards from the East Hide where we had been sat. It was very difficult to see and was best observed from the footpath.
We gradually worked out the best position from where to observe the bird, in the best light, and we were lucky that it flew and landed much, much closer – perhaps just 50 yards away. The views were excellent allowing all of the salient features to be noted – the very short tail feathers and the little or no white in the trailing edge. The underwing was very rusty, with warm brown on the breast, the creamy-buff throat patch bordered by the black and the reddish base to the bill. It was seen in flight on several occasions and on occasions, running about the ground and flycatching. It was under constant observation from 0750 to 0835 hours.
It represented my 265th species of the year and my first Oriental Pratincole in Lincolnshire. It also represented only the 4th Oriental Pratincole for Britain -:
1981 Suffolk/Essex Dunwich Beach Pools, first-summer, 22nd June to 8th July; same, moulting to adult, Old Hall Marshes, Essex, about 6th August to about 11th October (British Birds 82: 521; 86: 115-120, plates 20-22; Ibis 133: 218).
1988 Kent Harty, 21st or 22nd June to 3rd September, presumed same, Elmley, 4th, 14th, 25th, 30th September to 3rd October (British Birds 82: 521; Birding World 1: 359-360; Ibis 133: 218).
1993 Norfolk Gimingham, adult, 14th May to 3rd June, same, Weybourne, 3rd, Blakeney Point, 4th, Burnham Norton, 5th to 21st, 13th July to 13th August, Titchwell and Thornham, 14th to 17th (British Birds 87: 522, 523, plates 129-130; Birding World 6: 192-193).
1993 East Sussex Pevensey Levels, 29th to 30th August (British Birds 88: 509) (same as above)
1993 Suffolk Havergate Island, 4, 19th September (British Birds 88: 509).(same individual as above)
2009 West Sussex Pagham Harbour North Wall, 28th-29th May (British Birds 103: 582, plates 273 & 315)
2009 Kent Dungeness, 3rd June (same bird as in West Sussex) (British Birds 103: 582)
As we walked back to the car, we added Common Whitethroat (10+), Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk (male) and Red-legged Partridge (pair) to the day-list, whilst in the Kirton area nearby, Jay, Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were added.
BURNHAM MARKET (NORFOLK)
A pair of MONTAGU’S HARRIERS was showing very well in the usual area. The adult male caught a small Field Vole and then did a food pass to the female.
Marsh Harriers were also in the vicinity, as well as Common Buzzard, Common Whitethroat and a rattling male Lesser Whitethroat..
HOLKHAM FRESHMARSH (NORTH NORFOLK)
Scanning across the marshes from the road yielded Pied Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, 8+ Egyptian Geese with young, Greylag Geese, numerous Little Egrets, the tree-nesting colony of Cormorants, a female Marsh Harrier, 8 Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, Common Swifts, House Martins, Common Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat.
CLEY NWT RESERVE (NORTH NORFOLK)
A flock of 98 Dark-bellied Brent Geese was present in the Eye Field.
Meanwhile, North Scrape yielded 4 LITTLE TERNS – my first of the year (267), along with 22 Sandwich Terns, a TEMMINCK’S STINT, 3 Common Sandpipers, Pied Avocets, 2 Ruff, 80 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Common Terns, Ringed Plovers, Wigeon, Shoveler, an immature Great Black-backed Gull, Sand Martins and a male Northern Wheatear by the pillbox.
SALTHOUSE HEATH (NORTH NORFOLK)
In the area by the crossroads, a singing NIGHTINGALE, 2 Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap, two Common Whitethroats, Robin and Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit were all recorded.
HOLKHAM FRESHMARSH (NORTH NORFOLK)
A return visit to Holkham resulted in us finally connecting with the long-staying COMMON CRANE. The bird was showing very well at the edge of the pool and was easily visible from the Washington Hide. There was also a male Marsh Harrier in the same area, with a COMMON KINGFISHER at the pool by Meals House, and Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Common Treecreeper along the ride.
GYPSY LANE, TITCHWELL (NORTH NORFOLK)
It has been many years since I last walked down this track to the beach but today our target was a very confiding first-winter RED-NECKED GREBE that had been present in the dyke just east of the footpath for several weeks. The bird was showing very well but was sadly fairly moribund (and consequently died a few days later). It climbed out of the water on one occasion (see Carl Chapman’s image below). Ashley Banwell obtained the other shots. The walk also yielded a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 2 Muntjac Deer, a rattling male Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and two singing male Willow Warblers.
TITCHWELL MARSH RSPB (NORTH NORFOLK)
A pleasant hour spent at the reserve with a total of 49 species recorded
Great Crested Grebe (1 offshore)
Mute Swan and Greylag Geese
Dark-bellied Brent Geese (100+)
Common Shelduck, Mallard and Gadwall
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 separate pairs on the freshwater lagoon)
Northern Pochard (2 adult drakes)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes)
Common Scoters (300+ offshore)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female)
Marsh Harriers (6 over the reedbed)
Common Pheasant and 2 Red-legged Partridges
Moorhen and Coot
Grey Plover (5)
Red Knot (6)
Eurasian Curlew (1)
Bar-tailed Godwit (1)
Lapwing, Common Redshank and Dunlin
Common Greenshank (1)
Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed & Great Black-backed Gulls.
Little Tern (1)
Common Swift, Sand & House Martins.
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (1 reeling by footpath)
Cetti’s and Western Reed Warblers, Common Chiffchaff
BEARDED TITS (10+ by footpath, with much activity)
HUNSTANTON CLIFFS (NORTH NORFOLK)
A drake Common Scoter was offshore, along with Northern Fulmars – the 114th species of the day.
LEE VALLEY PARK – HOLYFIELD MARSH (ESSEX)
We drove back from North Norfolk to Essex, where at last light, we located a WOOD SANDPIPER on the most northerly Langridge Pit – my first of the year. A BARN OWL was hunting near Holyfield Farm, whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, a male Yellow Wagtail, Little Grebe and 6 adult Egyptian Geese were noted (1 pair accompanying 6 young).
With four new species at this latter site, our final day tally was 118.