Friday, 28 April 2017

Serious accident marrs decent birding day to the South West

A decent day was planned to the west country on Saturday April 22nd. We had a decent list of target species with TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL, BLACK-WINGED STILT and GLOSSY IBIS. Hopefully it could be a decent day. The weather was forecast was good and the crew was assembled. Today it was CJW as navigator and The Stalker as the quiet one who watches us.

First stop was at Slimbridge. We decided to arrive early and sneak in via the secret gate. Unfortunately, our well rehearsed plans were thwarted by a lady standing by the secret gate. She took all our details, checked all three of our genuine WWT membership cards, had a small laugh and joke with her and off we walked towards the South Lake following her directions. (Sneaking into a WWT reserve indeed - what do you think we are? ). 

We arrived at the South Lake and before I even lifted my bins and sat down in the comfy armchair I could see the pair of BLACK-WINGED STILTS feeding away just in front of us. Amazingly, these are my first Black-winged Stilts seen at Slimbridge and in fact, the first I've ever seen in the whole county of Gloucestershire. Who would have thought that! (This is actually my 6th county for BWS for the record)

Then an announcement was made in the hide that there was a SPOONBILL viewable from the Zeiss Hide. I felt the urge to sprint out of the hide there and then, clambering over the chairs and knocking old women flying, but for some reason, I decided to show restraint. We made the long walk to the top of the reserve, only on entering the hide to be met with the dreadful news that the SPOONBILL had flown to the other end of  the reserve. CJW was crestfallen to say the least and did well to hold back the tears. We sat in the hide, pulled ourselves together and started to scan the pools beneath us. Then The Stalker picked up a large white bird flying up along the riverbank. It soon disappeared behind the trees, but we felt it maybe wasn't a LITTLE EGRET.It then started to turn, a neck became visible and we realised it was the Spoonbill! Elation swept through the hide.

With the possibility of another year with hopefully a blingless CRANE, we headed down to the other end of the reserve. We sat in the Holden Tower and amazingly the SPOONBILL flew down to our end of the reserve and gave us excellent views from the tower on its fly past. There were two CRANES present but they were blinged up. The Spoonbill showed well from one of the flat low hides that you have to duck under a piece of carpet to get in.

With no news from the TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL site in North Somerset, we headed down to Ham Wall instead. We parked up on the car park, the sun was beating down but things started to go wrong. We were getting our stuff together as normal, and I swung my scope on my back. I didn't realise CJW was stood directly behind me checking my collar size, and with one swing of my tripod I smacked it into his head. The crack was deafening and he went down like a ton of bricks. After a few moments on the floor, the stars stopped floating around his head and the tweeeting birds flew off. He stood up as though nothing had happened.

I looked at The Stalker and we just shrugged our shoulders and carried on. But we knew CJW wasn't quite right but what could we do. The birding on the reserve was fantastic, and poor old CJW just jabbered along grinning and singing old sea shanties to himself. We saw three Hobby, five Swift, three Bittern in flight, four drake Garganey, a Glossy Ibis, nine Great White Egret, two Whimbrel and eleven Cattle Egret. The list was just like one you get sent in from Berryhill or Trentham Gardens.

Poor old CJW after his bang on his head. You can see his odd shaped egg head

Just managed all eleven Cattle Egret at Meare NR