23 Jul 2014

23 July 14 - The Magic Of The Wonderous Willow

Don't worry this isn't a homage to cricket. But shock, horror, it's a post about Birds on a Birding blog. June & July can get very quiet for birding in Dorset, hence the reason I diversify into insects, especially Butterflies & Dragonflies. Still quite an id challenge on a few species, a good learning experience and a good excuse to keep me getting out & busy with the camera. I have been out Birding as well, but just not seen that much of interest recently. That was until local patch stalwart, Ian Ballam, found a Spotted Crake sitting in a Willow tree over the weekend. Fantastic Poole Harbour record to actually see one in the harbour, as the one (or possibly two) heard in the Spring were only heard calling after dark in the Wareham area and it/they quickly moved on. I can't remember when the last Spotted Crake was actually seen in Poole Harbour, but probably around 10 years ago, although there have been a couple other Spring birds calling after dark in that period for a few days, before moving on.

Anyway, the Spotted Crake was looked for over the next day & a half with no further sightings, apart from a sighting about 2 hours after the initial sighting. Then a surprisingly early text yesterday morning to say it had reappeared & again it was sitting in the what I now think should be called the 'Wonderous Willow'. The Irish Birders have the 'Magic Bush' on Tory Island where birds just appear & perhaps this is the start of something new locally. I managed to get the OK to visit this morning & was pleased to hear it had been seen as I was parking the car. But I then had to negotiate the maze of paths, secret planks across ditches (covered by muddy water), retraced my steps after taking the wrong path, before finally getting to the right site. By this time, not surprisingly the Spotted Crake had dropped out of the Wonderous Willow. But a bit later it popped out again briefly. Then it reappeared for a final few minutes & allowed some photos as it moved around in the tree. The previous day, it was seen with 2 Water Rails in the same Willow, along the Reed & Sedge Warblers that seen to be constantly bouncing around in the branches.
Spotted Crake: Wow. I heard the bird in the Spring, which was a Poole Harbour tick, but personally, I only considered that as a 1/2 tick as not seen, so great to add this fully to my Poole Harbour list
Spotted Crake: There have also been birds seen recently in Somerset & Gloucestershire in the last few days, so presumably they all arrived on the same winds
Spotted Crake: The whitish chin & brownish bill indicate it is a juvenile
Had I been asked a week ago, where to look for a Spotted Crake, then my answer would have been simple: to look at the edge of a reedbed, where there was a bit of exposed mud and in late evening on a end of August date. Sitting in Willow tree in July would not have entered my head. But what I think is happening here is the Spotted Crake and the Water Rails are feeding in the adjacent reed edge & probably quite a bit at night and are now coming into the Wonderous Willow as it is safe. It sits above a ditch, so no chance of predators taking them (except for possibly an opportunistic Sparrowhawk). Also, perhaps they are enjoying the early morning sun after a night of feeding. I guess this is probably a typical behaviour, but one I've not heard of before for either species, as it probably normally occurs in trees out of sight in the reed bed.
Spotted Crake
Unfortunately, this is a private site with no opportunity to open it up to public access.
Spotted Crake: Heading back to the reeds
While I was waiting to see if the Spotted Crake would show again, this Kingfisher appeared. This is another recent arrival as there are no local breeding sites.
Kingfisher: Male. Perching in the Wonderous Willow
Kingfisher: Male as it has an all black bill, females would have an orangey lower mandible