Sunday 26 September 2010

A painful lesson is learnt!

I'm on my way down to the farm this morning and Dougy, who seems to have a problem sleeping and is already there, is on the phone to tell me there's a Little Stint and three Dunlin on the pool variously known as the Plantlife pond (as Plantlife funded it), the dead pool (because for the first couple of years its existence it seemed devoid of any form of life) and I Can't Believe It's Not Walmsley, this last one being a sarcastic reference to the fact that every now and then it does attract a wader or two.

So I amble across the field and there's the man himself, standing behind his Velbon monopod and Nikon 'scope looking very pleased with himself. After all, this is only the third Little Stint ever to be seen on the reserve. It's a typical juvenile, dashing about all over the place, loosely accompanied by two of the Dunlin which are trying to keep up with it.

"The other one's over there - it's been half hidden behind the rushes" says Dougy. He hasn't had a proper look at it yet as he's been enjoying good views of the stint.

I point my bins across the pool at the precise point that the fourth wader emerges on to the open mud. I suggest to Dougy that he might like to take a closer look. Although he makes an admirable attempt to appear unfazed, I can tell he is shattered as he realises that it is in fact a Pectoral Sandpiper!

I'd like to point out that Dougy, never one to let pride spoil a good story, insisted I tell it like it was. He has now learnt his lesson, i.e. grill everything properly before anyone else arrives....

All the waders suddenly took off and flew toward the airfield, but we later relocated the Pectoral on Ruan Pool, where we got great views from the old hide. It was unusually flighty, even being spooked by a passing Jackdaw, which then chased it round in circles before allowing it to re-settle.

This is the third record for the farm - it's as regular here as Little Stint!

Friday 17 September 2010

Hybridising hirundines?

Nothing too out of the ordinary to report lately. A juvenile Marsh Harrier was found standing in the shallows (thoughts of the Rolling Stones there...) of one of the dragonfly ponds on 3rd. We've had a few waders through: Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Ruff, Whimbrel, Curlew, Dunlin, Green Sandpipers. One of the Curlew had a horribly damaged leg, bending 180° backwards from the knee. The Whimbrel was hobbling a bit too. There's been an average passage of Wheatears, Whinchats, Spotted Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtails. A Wryneck failed to make it on to the farm by a matter of feet last weekend.

And so the rarest bird to pay us a visit this autumn dropped by this morning as I was standing by the Plantlife pond. A bunch of about 15 Swallows came down and skimmed the surface. Amongst them, flying away from me, was one with a big white rump patch. It was not a House Martin. Red-rumped Swallow flashed through my mind for about a nano-second, because as it turned, it was just a Swallow. In every respect except that rump, it looked like a bog-standard young Barn Swallow.

Off they went, gaining height and moving south, leaving me scratching my head and wondering if it was just an aberrantly plumaged Swallow or a hybrid x House Martin. I think the fact that the white patch was regularly-shaped and clearly defined makes the latter the more likely.