30 Sept 2014

30 Sep 14 - It's All Happening At Middlebere

Middlebere is a site that is best to visit on the rising tide as it's one of the last places in that part of the Poole Harbour to flood. But the height of the tide is also a factor. On spring tides it can go from fully out to high water in about an hour, on some neap tides the creek doesn't get flooded. But today I hit it perfectly. The tide pushed up but left a reasonable amount of mud exposed for Waders to roost on through the hide tide. As I walked into the hide, the creek was a mass of 1029 Black-tailed Godwits & 354 Avocets in two tight clusters. There was always some mud exposed on the high tide so there was the chance for prolonged views of the Waders. Sadly, no small Waders, but 10 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Greenshanks & 7 Spotted Redshanks also kept things interesting.
Avocet: Part of the 354 flock. They normally roost on Brownsea, but will roost at Middlebere on the lower high tides
Black-tailed Godwit: Part of the 1029 flock. Again normally they roost in numbers on Brownsea, although they often roost in smaller numbers (generally less than 150) at Middlebere, Brands Bay etc to avoid flying back & to be ready to feed as the mud is exposed again
A first Winter Green Sandpiper was back on the pool in front of the hide. This pool has been well visited of late by both a first Winter & an adult Green Sandpiper.
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. The broad spotting on the tertials indicates this is a Juvenile/1st Winter
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. Which is my better side, this side?
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. Or maybe this side?
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. After all that, it's time for a rest
Later on this Little Egret dropped into the same pool to feed.
Little Egret: They are commonly seen here, but it has taken a lot of visits to photograph one this close
Mute Swans are erratic visitors at Middlebere and this is only my second sighting here this year after one in the Spring.
Mute Swan
Mute Swan: After circling it did set down on the water
The visit continued to get better when a first Winter Marsh Harrier, grabbed something & settled down on the kill.
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter birds look very dark & uniform at this time of the year
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter. Note the pale tips to the primary & secondary coverts and the uniform flight feathers
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter. Not a great shot, but it shows the uniform flight feathers also have pale tips to them
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter
It was later joined by a female Marsh Harrier, but it wasn't interested in sharing the food. After a chase, the female departed and the first Winter bird went back to the kill.
Marsh Harrier: Female being seen off by the 1st Winter Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier: Female. On first impressions, this looks like another 1st Winter bird as it has the buff tips to the primary & secondary coverts and the flight feathers. But it also shows contrast between dark & light secondaries which points to a bird that has a mixture of old & new flight feathers. The more extensive buff-yellow patch on the leading edge of the wing can occur in some 1st Winter birds, but is more prominent in older females 
Marsh Harrier: Female. The contrast between the old & the new secondaries is quite obvious as is the dark wedge of outer primaries
At one point, the subadult male that was around a few days before put in another appearance.
Marsh Harrier: Subadult male
Marsh Harrier: Subadult male: A distant record shot view of the upperwing (which will have to do until I can get some decent shots)
With all this Harrier action it was no surprise to see the Avocet & Black-tailed Godwit flocks spooked a few times.
Black-tailed Godwits: Still trying to work out how I found feel if one of these had dark underwings
The best point of the afternoon was finding a 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull on the foreshore. Despite being a common breeding bird in the upper harbour and a common wintering species around the Studland area, it is a rare bird at Middlebere. In 17 years, I have seen Mediterranean Gulls here on 4 occasions, including a flock of 3 on one visit this Summer. Whilst directing the other visitors in the hide onto the Med, I then realised there were 3 more 1st Winter individuals. Soon after an adult joined them, followed by a 2nd Winter. In the space of 10 minutes, I had doubled my number of Mediterranean Gulls for the site. They hung around for an hour or so, but despite good numbers of Black-headed Gulls being there, they departed as one of the Marsh Harriers booted everything again. Unfortunately, I failed to get any worthwhile photos of the group. I finished off the day, by returning to the Brands Bay hide for the late afternoon falling tide & got my first photos of the new Great White Egret.