Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hudsonian Whimbrel and Eastern Black Eared Wheatear

Another month and another mega rare American wader in the form of a Hudsonian Whimbrel. And yet another trip to Hampshire.
The Whimbrel appeared at Church Norton/Pagham Harbour on Tuesday and has been showing well at times, seeming to be tide dependant. Did not really expect it to be still there this weekend, but it was and so with a sense of deja vu headed off down to the Hampshire coast. We decided not to leave too early just in case alternative parking arrangements would be announced-Church Norton doesn't hold many cars and Pagham's visitors centre isn't much better. We were lucky and found a couple of spaces outside the church. Unfortunately a returning birder told us it had flown to the far north of the harbour a little while earlier, having shown well a times.
We met up with a group scanning the far distant shore, but birds were so far away even things like Shelduck were hard to make out, so after a while we moved further north finding another group including a few Tyttenhanger luminaries. Over the next two hours we were able to make out a few Whimbrel on the northern shore and in flight dark-rumped birds were noted on a couple of occasions. A few Whimbrel and Curlews were also seen on the large grassy island in the middle of the harbour. With the tide dropping, bird activity gradually picked up and around 1100 I noted a Whimbrel fly down from the shore and drop down into a gully on the island. It seemed to me to be rather pale with gingery tones to the brown plumage and so was a very good candidate, but no-one else saw it.
Waders were starting to come out onto the new muddy edges, including some Dunlin, Bar Tailed Godwits, Oystercatcher and Lapwing. Five Whimbrel were showing quite well at times-all had white rumps though, but around 1200 two birds were picked up in flight, and one lacked a white rump! A long way off, they were tracked for a few minutes and dropped onto the island where they could occasionally been seen over the next hour. At that distance making out head details in the heat haze was difficult but I am certain that from time to time it was the Hudsonian we were watching.
We returned to the car at 1300 suffering somewhat, as we had not brought anything to eat and drink, not expecting to have to wait so long to see the bird.
Our original plan had been to perhaps return via Thursley for dragonflies or visit somewhere in the area for plants and butterflies. However the mid morning news of an Eastern Black Eared Wheatear at Acres Down in the New Forest changed all of that.
Bumped into one of the Kent birders that I used to see regularly in the 90's at Rownham Services, and   met many more when we finally arrived at Acres Down. lucky again to get a space in the car park as cars were lined up either side of the lane for some distance. Even more luckily the Wheatear showed quite well when we reached the crowd, initially perched in a tree and then dropping down onto a log where it posed for the cameras. Some familiar faces from Royston arrived moments after the Wheatear flew off strongly-unfortunately Dave was not one of them as his back was causing problems again-hope you recover soon mate.
Following advice from a  local we carried on along the path and up to the raptor watch point. Stonechats and Tree Pipits were everywhere as usual, but the only raptors were Buzzards, though apparently Honey Buzzards and Goshawks have been seen recently. I heard a distant Woodlark-this years bogey bird so headed off in that direction. We then noted a couple of excited birders ahead with more arriving. The Wheatear had been re-found. This time it was a bit more distant on some burnt gorse, being mobbed by a Dartford Warbler. Mobile, it ranged over some distance but at times came reasonably close until passing horse riders caused it to fly off. Luckily everyone was able to get stunning views, and many more were still arriving as we left. We also managed to see at least five Woodlarks, which was a bonus.
Turns out that my only other Black Eared Wheatear, the 1993 Sitffkey bird was a Western, so I am now hoping for a split at some time in the future.
Just a note that the images were taken with the 500mm lens with both 1.4 and 2x converters so image quality is not the best to put it mildly.

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