24 Apr 2014

24 April 14 - Lightning Strikes Greenlands Farm Twice

Was settling down this am to start adding the recent Western Sahara sightings to my birding database, when had a call from local birder, Graham Armstrong. Calls from Graham are usually reserved for something interesting on the bird front. This was a bit more interesting than normal: concerning a large Pipit & not a Tawny Pipit on Greenlands Farm, which abuts Brands Bay at Studland. From the mainly flight views he had seen at that stage, he wasn't ruling out a Blyth's Pipit, but was leaning towards Richard's Pipit. Well this is my local patch & any large Pipit would be a Studland Tick, with Richard's being a Harbour Tick & Blyth's being a UK Tick. Time to press the panic alarm. Grabbing the camera, I had enough time to ring another local, Nick Hopper, & get him to phone some news on as I was heading out to the car. Normally, I tend to phone the news out around the locals, but this was one of those cases where I just needed to scramble asap. Arrived about 15 minutes later & started to walk down the track to Greenlands Farm. As I got to the first field on the right hand side, I saw a pale orangey-pink lump at the back of the field. Told myself it was a Hoopoe as I raised the bins, knowing that it would be for the next 10 seconds until I got the bins onto it & reidentified it as a horse turd or piece of wood. After all Hoopoe would be a patch Tick & while the field looks great for a Hoopoe, I've checked it many times over the years & never seen anything better than a Redstart in it. Got the bins on it & wow, it was a Hoopoe.
Hoopoe: Only my third in Poole Harbour & a nice self found local bird
Hoopoe: Another view 
Whilst grabbing some record shots, I rang Graham to tell him about the Hoopoe as he was only 100 metres away. Two conflicting thoughts running through my mind at this point. Elation about finding a patch tick, but frustration about getting Graham to leave the much better quality Pipit (wasn't even aware that Graham had now put the news out as a definite Richard's). Still the Hoopoe was happily feeding & should be quick to show it to Graham, so we could then concentrate on the Pipit. Rang the Hoopoe news out locally as Graham arrived. Looked up to find no Hoopoe, but fortunately, picked it up soon after flying into a tree at the back of the field. Once Graham had seen it, we could head off for the Pipit. Graham said he had seen the Pipit fly a couple of times & head it call, but not the typical shreep call, but was happy it was a Richard's Pipit. But he had lost it before my arrival in the corner of the main Greenlands Farm field. We headed back & after a good walk about in that area for 10 minutes, picked it up on call & then had a flight view as it went overhead giving a two note call I didn't recognise. There again, I've not seen that many Richard's Pipits, so not recognising the call wasn't a negative thing for the identification (more a sign I would rather listen to music at home than bird recordings). I could see in flight it was a large bulky Pipit with a long dark tail with white outer tail feathers. It then flew around a couple more times on quite long flights, calling regularly as we stayed in the same area. But on each occasion it came down out of sight. We didn't want to move as we could now see Nick walking down the track. He quickly stopped to see the Hoopoe (surprisely a Harbour tick for him despite having a bigger Poole Harbour list that me). Eventually, he joined us & we explained it had gone down on the adjacent Godlingston Heath & again out of sight. Nick had some calls of Richard's which he was playing to us to see if we recognised the call. All he had was the more typical shreep call which he was playing when it went up again & flew towards us & was now giving an identical shreep call. Confirmation in my mind as to the identity as I had still only had flight views. It flew several times after that, at its own choice as we weren't moving around much as we could now see Paul Morton, who runs the Birds of Poole Harbour website. Again Paul arrived quite slowly as he got distracted by the Hoopoe he had to walk past. Then we could finally walk towards it. But it saw us well before we saw it & another couple of long flight views ensued. In two or so hours I was looking for the Richard's Pipit, I only managed to see it once on the ground & that wasn't close views, even with the telescope. Certainly, too far for a photo, but fortunately, I managed a few shots as it was flying around.
Richard's Pipit: A Poole Harbour Tick & a rare Spring bird in Dorset. Calling in flight. Paul Morton returned early afternoon with his recording equipment & managed to get some flight calls. They can be heard on the Birds of Poole Harbour Sightings Page.
Richard's Pipit: A big blow up of the wing coverts
Richard's Pipit: Quite a strong dark moustachial stripe & whitish supercilium
Richard's Pipit: It was quite buffy on the upper breast
Richard's Pipit: Frustratingly, it didn't land on this post. But at least it gives a nice view of the tail feathers as well as the 2 pale wingbars
Richard's Pipit
Richard's Pipit: A clear view of the 2 pale wingbars and the dark medium covert bar
Finally, a big thanks & well done to Graham Armstrong for finding the Richard's Pipit. A great bird to find locally & his second for Studland. Graham found the last Studland Hoopoe (last year as it flew over the harbour mouth) & coincidentally, I think the last Greenlands Farm Hoopoe was found by another Poole Harbour local, Steve F Smith (no relation).
Graham Armstrong: At the South Haven Vis Mig watch point (August 2010)