8 Aug 2015

8 Aug 15 - Black Stork Madness

Late afternoon, I was about to grab some food when I thought I should check the RBA news. With a few migrants in Dorset, there was always a chance something mildly interesting might have been found. I wasn't hopeful & I certainly wasn't expecting the breaking news of a Black Stork at Arne. There was no further information as the news had only got onto the breaking news feed at that point. A few quick calls to locals to get the news out while I was making a coffee to take with me: I expected a long search. By this point, the local RBA channel was saying it had been seen from the Arne approach road at 17:25-17:40 before flying West. But it was still only 17:50 so very recent news. I rang Paul Morton again, who couldn't get away & got Paul to phone the news on. He couldn't drive or get away to look for it, and I needed to be on the road at this point. First stop was just after six on Soldiers Road: but no joy. Then a drive along the Arne Road & back again as far as Sunnyside Farm. Plenty of potential places for it to pitch down, but no joy. The next stop was probably where I should have gone first, the Slepe Heath viewpoint which gives views over Swineham & the lower Frome valley. A quick scan over the water meadows didn't reveal any Black Storks. Then I looked towards Arne & realised it was flying just to the East of the Arne Triangle. I had a good view as it flew low toward the upper end of the Middlebere channel & appeared to drop into the fields.
Black Stork: Juvenile. Flying over the upper Middlebere fields toward Middlebere farm
I made a quick call to Nick Hopper who was the nearest Birder, to send Nick to the viewpoint overlooking Middlebere & another call to Paul & a couple of locals to get the news out. Nick got there first, but no sign of the Black Stork. He left for the high ground by the Middlebere Harrier hide, while I stayed put, in case went up again. Twenty minutes later, there was no news from Nick & I had had no further sightings, but I had made more phone calls to locals. So I decided to join Nick. I arrived close to the first viewpoint over the Harrier hide creek, only to see the Black Stork appear over where I had just been on the road. I rang Nick, but the call was going to answerphone, so had to resort to the old fashion communication & shouted as loud as I could, thinking Nick was within 100 metres. Fortunately, I was on high ground & my shout carried the 600 metres or so to where Nick was. He looked up to see the Black Stork flying towards him as it passed over the cottages. It then swung around & came back into my view as it went across the creek in front of the Harrier hide & off towards the Wytch causeway area. This is an area of private roads, with a few public footpaths. A few of the locals (myself included) have permission to enter this area for survey work. Forty-five minutes later, it reappeared from the Wytch causeway area & dropped in into the marshy field, at the far end of the creek in front of the Harrier hide. By this time Nick & I had been joined by Aidan Brown.
Black Stork: Juvenile. In the marshy field in front of the Harrier hide. No sign of any rings (or a bill). It's grainy, but the SX60 was being balanced on top of the telescope & was on 260x (65x optical & 4x digital: the biggest zoom)
Black Stork: Juvenile. With the Spoonbills
More phone calls to update the locals as more were now out looking. The calls were brief as I was trying to get photos as well as get the news out. I knew Nick's mobile had been dead for over an hour & my battery life was now on its last legs. Fortunately, the Black Stork walked into the creek & dwarfed the three Spoonbills feeding in the water. After been on view for about thirty minutes, locals, Ian Lewis, Mark & Mo Constantine & Graham Armstrong had joined us. Soon after it flew again. This time it disappeared into the trees & presumably went to roost. I would expect anybody at the Harrier hide first thing in the morning, will have a good chance of connecting with it. This is not only the best viewpoint, but about the only public accessible area that it is likely to be visible from.
The Black Stork twitch: Mo Constantine, Mark Constantine, Graham Armstrong, Julian Thomas, Nick Hopper, Aidan Brown, Ian Lewis & Mike Cross (who unfortunately arrived five minutes too late) (left to right)