18 keen birdwatchers joined me for our last outdoor meeting of 2013. A bright sunny day, with a surprisingly mild breeze gave us an excellent opportunity to enjoy some sea watching. The patch was busy as usual with many black-headed and herring gulls, with a few great black backed, lesser black backed and at least three kittiwake.
One of the many birding highlights for me was watching a huge flock of common scoter. Initially found by Ian, they were not easy to track with a heavy swell hiding them from our eager gaze for much of the time. After a while, however, the flock decided to move ‘en-masse’ and at that stage we realised that there were over 60 individuals – no velvet scoters were apparent unfortunately, despite our efforts to spot one!
Several red-throated divers were flying a little further out from the shore. They have a very distinctive profile when flying, they look as if their wings have had an argument with their head – the long neck stretching out with the wings set back seemingly out of proportion to the rest of the bird.
Cormorant, gannet, great-crested grebe and gulliemot were also spotted by members of the group before we returned to the car park. On the way we managed to add magpie, house sparrow, pied wagtail, crow, starling and wood pigeon to the list. I should point out at this stage that we had been set the challenge by Malcolm of finding 63 species today, hence we also added feral pigeon (or dodgy dove)!
The Hanson Hide on the A.R.C. pits was our last stop before lunch, and here we added many waterfowl, including male and female goldeneye, tufted duck, gadwall, shoveler and wigeon, along with lapwing, and a sleeping common gull – well found by Roy.
Near the hide Anne spotted chiffchaff, goldcrest, blue tit and long-tailed tit, feeding in nearby bramble bushes. A female marsh harrier hunted over the shingle beyond the pit, whilst a kestrel hovered further away. Great white egret could be seen from the path as we headed for the reserve, and some of us were lucky enough to watch a peregrine falcon fly overhead. Near the entrance we could hear tree sparrow, but none were seen as far as I am aware.
A picnic lunch in December is always a bonus, and this time we were near the feeders at the RSPB Reserve and shared the company of reed bunting and great tit. Unanimously the high spot of the day was Sue P’s chocolate cakes – they were scrummy and appreciated by everyone.
After lunch we started on a circuit of the reserve and from the Firth Hide added pintail – Sue G’s find, gooseander, female smew, grey heron, greylag, teal and coot. There were also a huge number a wigeon and gadwall looking beautiful in the afternoon sunlight. By now the tide had changed and so had the wind direction, bringing a distinct drop in temperature, with few daylight hours left, we made good progress finding green woodpecker, blackbird, mute swan, and robin along the way.
From the viewing mound overlooking Denge Marsh we had the most stunning five minutes of the day. It started unceremoniously when a pheasant appeared in the distance, then water rail squealed from a nearby reedbed. The next minute Anne excelled by calling “Bittern”. We could not have asked for better views. The bird flew across our view, circled, flew back again and then rather elegantly swooped down to disappear into the reedbed in front of us, everyone was thrilled to have had such great views. Not to be outdone, within a couple of minutes a snipe shot through.
So, our last walk of 2013 ended on a definite high with some lovely views of great birds, we were 10 short of our target, but we went for quality rather than quantity. Thanks must go to those who attended, especially Sue P for bringing the cakes – do you take orders Sue?
Thanks also to all of those who have supported our indoor and outdoor meetings this year. Our first outdoor meeting of the new year is on Sunday 5th January at Foreness Point, we look forward to seeing you there.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.