Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ornithological retribution. 26/5/2011.

One advantage of being based in South Yorkshire is that it is easy to reach a huge variety of nature reserves and other areas without travelling too far. Today we visited the Whisby Nature Park in Lincolnshire which, in relative terms, is not that far from Sheffield. I'd never been there before and , therefore, was eager to visit as I'm a sucker for taking in new areas and exploring. It's a reclaimed area of gravel pits whose various lagoons are regulated to support both recreation and conservation.

It's a really pleasant site to visit whose several claims to fame include the presence of a few pairs of Nightingale. In addition to hearing partial song ( given it was around 0800 hours by then ), we had a couple of birds buzzing around clearly feeding a nearby brood of young in woodland cover alongside the path. Given the recent reports of an ever reducing national population ( 90% in 40 years ) it was a pleasant relief to find birds in residence.

On various ones of the pools there are islands supporting breeding Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns.

A more recent aspect of interest at the site is the presence of visiting Yellow-legged Gulls, of which we recorded three. Sadly poor weather started to intervene , although it improved later, and interrupted our scrutiny of a number of other gulls present. All in all it was an interesting visit with a wide variety of species seen , be they duck, passerines, resident or summer visitors and somewhere I will certainly visit again.

With improving weather we moved on to Hatfield Moors where we had excellent views of Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail and Grey Partridge. This is a really enticing site , a National Nature Reserve and vast in extent but with huge potential and interest. Given the weather was holding up we went on to a site where 5 or 6 Black-necked Grebe are present. The site has little emergent vegetation, as far as we could ascertain from the point we viewed it, and one wonders whether these birds will suddenly move off and breed at a more suitable location in the nearby area despite the relatively late date. An intriguing species to say the least.

Moving on we called in at a well known site, which held our quarry, a male Ruddy Duck. I've never been truly comfortable with the policy being adopted by DEFRA towards the extermination of the species in the UK because of its alleged inter-breeding with White-headed Duck in Spain. Having travelled widely and regularly in Spain previously I've yet to see the species in that country and continue to have serious doubts on the subject. For that reason the location will remain undisclosed.

And so on to our final destination, Old Moor RSPB Reserve. Now , if I'm honest , we only really called in the main car park to see if Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the scrub nearby. But, at the very point of our departure, a pager message suggesting the presence of Temminck's Stint galvanised Matthew into remaining (given he's missed many of those occurring this spring.). Such was fortuitous in many other ways as I bumped into various friends I'd intended to visit , but hadn't due to not having transport. These latter suggested there was some debate ongoing about the ID of the bird and so we sped on to the hide with more than a little curiosity developing.

Such was no Temminck's Stint! The lack of any primary projection, the eye stripe , the back pattern , the rich colouration, the rusty ear coverts, the heavily streaked breast. It didn't look right for any number of considered alternatives and, eventually, all agreed it was a Least Sandpiper. The news was put out and people commenced to arrive in increasing numbers. After my exchanging greetings with a few more past friends we set off home feeling pleased and more than recompensed for the gut wrenching disappointment associated with the skua day! Given there's been less than 40 seen in Britain , and only about 4 in Yorkshire, this was a seriously worthwhile species to connect with. Sometimes there is justice in this world......

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