Monday, 3 February 2014

A Trip to Slimbridge and a Surprise Yellow Browed Warbler

January 25th and it was time to head off to Slimbridge on my annual coach trip with the Plymouth RSPB Group and my mate Mavis. At least it wasn't cancelled this year and the weather wasn't too bad, with sunshine before wind and rain moved in later in the day.

We headed straight to The Tack Piece and the Martin Smith Hide (the infamous hide where due to the sloping and worn smooth window shelf my camera was damaged beyond repair and my binocular doubler lens was broken costing me £100). No damages this time but Mavis spilt hot coffee everywhere as her coffee cup slid off the window shelf, luckily she was OK.

The view from the hide was amazing, there were birds everywhere on the flooded fields sounding and looking resplendent in the strong sunshine. 5 common cranes were seen, part of the Great Crane re-introduction scheme, and they were noisy and mobile around the reserve all day with birds doing their courtship dance and 1 bird checking out the reeds in front of the hide where they attempted nesting last year.

Nest Prospecting Common Crane in front of The Martin Smith Hide

Wildfowl and waders were everywhere - Bewicks swans, white fronted geese, 5 ruff, black tailed godwit, wheeling flocks of very skittish golden plover and lapwing being the highlights with redshank, dunlin, wigeon, teal, shoveler and pintail also seen, an amazing sight and it was difficult keeping track of everything going on.

 Pair of Pintail
 Sleeping Male Pochard

Other birds seen around the reserve where 2 stock doves, 4 fieldfare, 4 avocets, a lone Brent goose with the feral flock of barnacle geese, a peregrine, a sparrowhawk, a great crested grebe and a large flock of jackdaws coming in to roost in the trees at dusk. Not a bad days birding despite being cold as usual, I swear Slimbridge is one of the coldest places on Earth!

 Bewicks Swan at the Rushy Pen
 Bewicks Swans at The Rushy Pen at Dusk
Bewicks Swan

Wednesday 29th and we headed off to Topsham for a walk. I headed off to the recreation ground to look for the water pipit and black redstart that are still around since my visit back in December. The tide was out and the sun was shining but there was no sign of either birds. I did see a grey wagtail, 2 male and a female reed bunting and an adult lesser black backed gull amongst the roosting and bathing gulls along the river. I was just about to leave for Bowling Green Marsh when I found the water pipit on the pebbly island in the river channel where I saw it before Christmas. It showed very well as it bathed and preened and was quite aggressive towards a grey wagtail bathing nearby while ignoring a bathing pied wagtail.

The female type black redstart then gave a brief flight view near a white upturned boat on the slipway, its usual haunt, but when I saw it in December it was in the trees near the community centre. It flew in to the nearby garden and so I discretely watched over the hedge where I got another brief flight view and eventually it gave itself up and showed very well.

While looking for the black redstart in the garden I caught sight of a small bird flitting about in the vegetation and was expecting it to be a goldcrest. I got my binoculars on it for a second before it flew off and was shocked to find it was a yellow browed warbler! I scanned around again, doubting what I had seen in my one second view and eventually it showed amazingly well, down to a few metres at times, as it moved around the garden. I managed to get 2 passing birders on to it as well as I could not believe what I was seeing and it was a life tick for the pair of them. A beautiful bird with quite orangey looking legs, a yellow brow and 2 yellow wing bars and my third but best sighting ever. Also seen in the garden was a female blackcap and a redpoll with some goldfinches - I was very glad I hadn't left for Bowling Green Marsh after all!

Deciding to miss out Bowling Green Marsh and after some lunch we headed off to Darts Farm where a large flock of Brent geese were feeding in fields right by the side of the road. From the bird hide there were a few teal and wigeon with Canada geese while on the feeders I managed to find my target bird, a very smart looking female brambling amongst the chaffinch and greenfinch. It swooped down to the ground under the feeders, flying off with a seed to nearby trees before flying off and out of sight, a lucky sighting indeed and a great end to a great day out.

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