23 Aug 2021

23 Aug 21 - A Very Welcome C19 Gripback

On 17 Oct 20, a Rufous Bushchat was found at Stiffkey on the Norfolk coast. It showed well on the edge of the salt marsh, until its last sighting on 21 Oct. Having been found on a Saturday, then it was twitchable over the weekend, with many Birders making the trip to see it. At the time, the C19 numbers were rising significantly with another C19 wave on the way. The second English lockdown began less than three weeks later on 5 Nov. My twitching buddies all went & saw it. But I decided I couldn't justify going due to the rising C19 risk & the likelihood of the imminent lockdown.

This was only the ninth UK record, but it would have been a Tick for virtually all the UK twitchers given the previous records had been a two day individual at Flamborough on 5-6 Oct 1972 & one day individual on 9 Aug 1980 at Prawle, Devon. The record before that was a long staying individual that occurred from 2-9 Sep 1963 at Skegness: apparently one early twitcher heard about this through the post & successfully twitched it from the South East of the UK. There are also three Irish records, but the last one was in 1968. I had made my decision & I was comfortable with it. But I also reckoned I wasn't going to stand much of a chance of another one turning up.

Less than a year later, I was stunned to see on RBA that another Rufous Bushchat had been found at Coverack on the Cornish Lizard. C19 was still a problem in the UK, however, I had had two jabs by that date. I was more comfortable about travelling, albeit I still wasn't comfortable with the higher risk of car sharing: but there again, my twitching mates had seen the Norfolk individual. The only problem was it was a Monday lunchtime & I was working. But I didn't have anything urgent to worry about. In the latter days of being a permanent employee, I would just ask to take the time off or just go & let work know that a rare Bird had turned up & I was going twitching, providing it wouldn't impact any deadlines. Work always knew I would ensure I either made the time up later or in the worst case, I would do a few less hours of overtime that week. But having switched to contract work, I had to be more responsible. Fortunately, I had an understanding boss & she was happy for me to go at short notice & make the time up later that week.

I left just after 13:00 & arrived at Coverack just before 17:00. Parking had looked to be an issue as there was only a small car park. Fortunately, there was one space left when I arrived. It was a short walk to where the Rufous Bushchat was showing. I turned the corner & saw a small group who were watching it. I saw it immediately & the pressure was off. I wasn't sure whether I would need the telescope, but I took it anyway. It was so close that binoculars were perfectly adequate, although the telescope provided even better views. It was feeding on the footpath & sitting on stones next to an isolated house. As I was driving to Cornwall, I realised that in my rush to leave, I had the left my camera at home. I had to fall back on my Leica telescope & the mobile. Despite it being a brilliant telescope, I've never succeeded in getting any worthwhile photos from this combination. The Rufous Bushchat was no exception, albeit the photos weren't as bad as they usually are.
Rufous Bushchat: It wasn't pinned down to a definite subspecies, but it was considered to be one of the Eastern familiaris or syriaca subspecies: which indicates it originated from the Southern Caucasus to Iran & Pakistan or the Eastern Mediterranean & Middle East. It stayed for one extra day before it moved on, so it was good that I reacted quickly

15 Aug 2021

15 Aug 21 - Success At Bempton

I had tried on three occasions over successive weekends in July to see an English Black-browed Albatross, but it kept eluding me. This was partly down to it not being a UK Tick, as I had seen Albert, the Hermaness Black-browed Albatross in late June 81. This was the long stay individual that had turned up for most summers between 1975-95.

The Black-browed Albatross had settled into a routine of being seen virtually every day at Bempton Cliffs in the second half of July, until it was last seen on 7 August. Then on the 13th it was seen again. Having missed it three times, I wasn't in a hurry to rush back to Yorkshire. With news of its present on the 14th & seen sitting on its roost spot that evening, I decided to try again and ensure I was there for first light the next morning. I arrived about 04:45 & quickly walked down to the viewing platform overlooking its roost spot. Finally, in the early dawn mist, I added it to my English List. This is a list I started keeping for a bit of fun, but I'm slowly taking a more seriously now it's getting quite reasonable.
Black-browed Albatross: This photo was taken as the early morning mist cleared a bit: this was one of the better initial views
The mist clear & reappeared a few times, before clearing properly.
Black-browed Albatross: A better photograph once the mist cleared
Black-browed Albatross: It stretched its wings a few times over the next couple of hours.
Finally, about 07:40, it had taken to the air & spent the next half hour flying around the offshore, but it was never particularly close.
Black-browed Albatross: The white head with the characteristic Amy Winehouse eyebrow, uniform dark grey mantle, wings & tail and contrasting white rump, all help to identify this as a Black-browed Albatross from the other Albatross species
I walked back towards the car park & stopped at a closer viewpoint. It was still flying around, but it was closer to the cliffs. It made once close pass, then steadily headed out to sea. That looked like it would be the end of the views for several hours.
Black-browed Albatross: It's a pity there were a few bits of cliff top grass in the way
Black-browed Albatross: It was time to leave as it continued to fly steadily out to sea
I decided I had taken plenty of photos of the other Seabirds at Bempton Cliffs over the three previous visits: so, I headed back to the car park. I had a plan B if I saw the Black-browed Albatross early, which was to head down to Frampton Marsh in Lincs for a Pacific Golden Plover that had been present for the past three weeks.
Pacific Golden Plover: This is only the second Pacific Golden Plover that I've seen in the UK: the other one was the Stanpit individual back on 25 Jul 90
Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Frampton Marsh has managed to attract a number of rare Waders over the years, but I had never visited it. So, this would be a good excuse for a look. It has lots of good pools & I was very impressed with the reserve. It's a pity it is the best part of a five hour drive from home.
Little Ringed Plover: Juv