Thursday, 29 July 2010

Durham Strikes Back

Well I had an interesting days birding, quite possibly one of the strangest days I have ever had since I began birding nut certainly one of the most memorable.

We decided we would have a look for the Honey Buzzards down at Wykeham Forest raptor viewpoint which is in North Yorkshire. When we arrived we started scanning and I managed to pick up a very distant Common Buzzard, I got the other lads onto it pretty quick as it soared around. A while passed until when I was scanning to large birds of prey caught my eye as they flew around, these two birds far closer than the previous buzzard but still distant. It was pretty obvious that it was a Common Buzzard having some bother with a local Goshawk! The Goshawk was showing some aggression as it went in to attack the Buzzard a few times and they both separated and went there own ways, I have never seen this sort of aggression from a Sparrowhawk before. It was interesting to note that at times it was hard to separate the buzzard from the Goshawk on side views; therefore I think it was perhaps a female. Not quite as big but clearly packed enough punch to see off the buzzard. Later on we saw the Goshawk again, I got pretty good views and I reckon it was the same bird, brown in colour so most likely not a male bird. We left soon after when it started to rain!

We got back to the car and waited to see if it was going to clear up but it sadly didn’t look that way. So we headed for Filey because my friend Stew wanted to have a look to see what the crack was with the hide and if it was any good incase he wanted to go back in the future. On the way down the road from Wykeham Forest I got a text from my friend Mark Newsome which read “Juv Whiskered tern at Saltholme, in case u didn’t know. View from bus stop layby.” For crying out loud, I leave Durham for a few hours and this is what happens?

So we left Wykeham Forest and headed to Filey and we had a look around before heading of to Bempton Cliffs RSPB. We had a cracking day at Bempton with Gannet, Puffin, Kittiwake, and all the other regulars seen. It was quite nice to see the Fulmar chick amongst the large Gannet colony, I also heard my first Quail calling but was unable to see it despite it being ridiculously close by! We left Bempton Cliffs RSPB and started off for Salthome RSPB.

So on the way to Salthome RSPB I was reassured by text from Mark that the Whiskered Tern was still present and he said I should be ok, so hopefully it would still be there when I got there. A while later I got another text, “Lucky boy. Now an adult white-rumped sand next to the Wh Tern!” I was now so excited to get there and hopefully see both birds. We arrived at about 7:00ish and we had barely stopped and I was out the car with my scope out and walking across the road to the lay-by where the birds were visible from.

Me being the typical wader man I am I looked for the White-rumped Sandpiper, it was standing asleep! So I quickly turned by attention to look for the Whiskered Tern, I asked one of the locals and he said it was flying about and then followed by something like “It’s sitting there next to the Godwits.” I looked and there it was sitting quite relaxed on the rocks besides the black-tailed godwits. Thankfully the White-rumped Sandpiper came awake and started to wander about, thankfully it wandered along the causeway closer to where I was standing. I got pretty good views of it as it waded about amongst the rocks. I saw most of the features I would expect from the light and distance:
- Primaries projecting beyond the tail
- Hint of a supercilium
- The white rump when it was preening and I think I saw it when it was flapping about a little bit.

I spent a while watching the White-rumped Sandpiper because waders 1 of my 2 favourite families. However I did spend a bit of time watching the Whiskered Tern as it flew about as well as when it was sitting on the rocks. I went back yesterday (29th) and had better views in better light of the Whiskered Tern as it flew about in front of me. What a fabulous bird and again very distinctive once I got my eyes on it the previous day.

One a few occasions on the 28th I had the White-rumped Sandpiper and the Whiskered Tern together in the same scope view, its not very often that happens! I feel I made the right choice watching the White-rumped Sandpiper more than the Whiskered Tern as it left on the 28th and wasn’t seen yesterday (29th). What was frustrating on the 28th was that I kept switching to look at the Whiskered Tern because I didn’t want to neglect the fact it was there incase I didn’t get a chance to come back and see it again. However I am happy I spent a considerable amount of time watching the White-rumped Sandpiper.

Thanks to Ian Forrest and Derek Charlton for letting me use their images in this blog post:

(Whiskered Tern - Derek Charlton)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(White-rumped Sandpiper (left) with Dunlin (right) - Ian Forrest)
(White-rumped Sandpiper - Ian Forrest)

So Durham has struck back against the rest of the contry getting really rareities at this time of year, was really pleased with these two birds. What a very memorable days birding!

Life List Updates:
253 - White-rumped Sandpiper
254 - Whiskered Tern

Year List Updates:
221 - Kingfisher - Houghton area friday 23rd.
223 - White-rumped Sandpiper
224 - Whiskered Tern

Until next time, Foghorn out!

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