Fourteen of us met at the Old Lighthouse on a very bright, clear and cold day. We followed our usual path out to the beach with Sally spotting a pied wagtail on the way. Once on the beach we could see that the “patch” was teeming with gulls, and walked along to get a better view. From what we could see, most of the gulls were herring or black-headed and we weren’t able to spot anything unusual. Looking further out to sea, Irene was the first to find gannets swooping and diving. One of the group thought they’d found a peregrine sitting on the power station, but after much deliberation it turned out to be a decoy.
Leaving the beach we went for a walk round the scrub towards the observatory hoping to find a black redstart without any luck, but we did have stonechat and a couple of kestrels, one unusually seeing off two crows rather than the other way round. All thoughts were now turning to food. However, before any lunch, there was a ring-necked duck to be found which had been seen on the reserve close to the entrance. It was identified quite quickly by the white strip on its beak rather than any on its neck, and we were all able to see it.
We lunched by the car park where there were several small birds visiting the feeders including great tit, blue tit and chaffinch. Burrowes pit had the largest number of shovelers I think any of us had seen at any one time, plus gadwall, a few very smart looking pintails, great crested grebe, a pair of goldeneye, great black-backed, lesser black-backed, wigeon, a vast numbers of cormorants and one single redshank. We were lucky to spot the long-eared owl which was sitting in the bushes between the visitor centre and Firth Hide, which is where we had the most contentious spot of the day, when a fellow birder pointed out what he said was a caspian gull just landed amongst herring and black headed gulls. It was smaller than the herring gull with a white head and more white on the body, but the jury is still out. Moving on to Makepeace Hide we added little egret to our list.
The weather was now closing in and time was pressing so we made our way back to the car park with some of us taking a second look at the long-eared owl, and then over to the ARC and Hanson Hide. There we added great white egret, only the second wader of the day, a small flock of dunlin, and some of us were lucky enough to see a pair of water rail just outside the hide. To finish off our day a marsh harrier was spotted in the distance. All in all not a bad day clocking up around 50 species.
Thanks to Terry for the photo of the long-eared owl. Thanks to Sally for the group photo and the “caspian” gull.