Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Four shanks in a day - 10th March 2012

Spring is springing - flowers in bloom, birds singing and birds on the move. The red-breasted goose was not reported again after the 19th February ( I went looking for it on the 20th!), the Bewicks swans are heading East and the juvenile at Aveton Gifford has been wandering over to Slapton Ley, the bufflehead at Helston has moved on and the spotted sandpiper on the River Plym disappeared around the middle of February. I was hoping the spotted sandpiper would stay longer and become spotty but I hope it wasn't taken by a sparrowhawk as one poor bird was a few years ago on the Plym.

Flowering Vetch sp. at The China Fleet Club

Anyway, Saturday 10th March and I headed off on the bus to The China Fleet Club in Saltash, somewhere I haven't visited before. It is a health and leisure centre with a golf course, set up by the Armed Forces from the sale of land in Hong Kong (hence the name) but is open to the public too. It is right by the River Tamar and has a nature trail and 2 bird hides which are free to use and a lesser yellowlegs has been spending the last few months wintering in one of the creeks. It was first seen in November but was not identified until a few weeks ago due to it being distant and showing for brief periods only.

I wandered down to the 2nd bird hide, seeing a coot and 2 summer plumaged little grebes on an ornamental lake and plenty of long tailed tits in the woodland. Reaching the hide 2 bird watchers were already there with their telescopes but they were not very chatty - my heart sank a bit as I am not a fan of twitches or twitchers but at least I was there early and I had a seat in the hide.

Scanning around I saw a winter plumaged grey plover, 3 male shovelers chasing a female around, 9 little egrets roosting on the salt marsh, a fly over grey heron, a juvenile and 2 adult mute swans and around 5 very noisey and flighty greenshanks. Redshanks were busily feeding around the creek as the tide receded but I couldn't find the lesser yellowlegs amongst them. I did find a nice spotted redshank which flew across the saltmarsh showing its white oval rump before it roosted with some shelduck, always a nice bird to see and shank of the day number 3. A few wigeon and some teal were feeding amongst the creek inlets and when the tide was out the teal numbers increased dramatically as they headed down to the waters edge to feed out in the open in a large group. Dunlin, curlew and around 10 black tailed godwits were also seen.

Another birder arrived and was quite chatty, he was a local birder and the area was his local patch and he soon found the target bird feeding at the back of an inlet on the opposite side of the creek, it showed distantly and briefly as it feed on the mud before disappearing from view again. One of the non-chatty birders then left and after the lesser yellowlegs showed again briefly the other non-chatty birder left too.  It then showed very well out on the mud, feeding at times near a redshank allowing comparisons, being smaller, paler and slimmer built and with yellow and not red legs but it was always distant. At times it seemed to disappear against the mud but when the sun came out for brief periods and at certain angles its white belly gave its position away. Another local and chatty birder then arrived and he very kindly let me have a look through his telescope as my binocular booster was not really powerful enough to get a good view of the bird. I really must sort out getting a telescope especially as my binocular booster is making a rattling noise after I dropped it a while ago and now there is a lose bit inside which at times moves and obscures part of the lens, I will have to see if it can be repaired.

More friendly birders arrived but it was time to head off to meet David for a trip to the garden centre where a lovely male peacock was displaying his tail, and then on to Waitrose for some shopping with our mortgage secured to pay the bill.

The non-pretty side of a peacock

And the pretty side !
Peacock closeup

And so I had seen 4 shanks in a day and had my third British lifer of the year, not a bad couple of hours bird watching.

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