Monday, June 22, 2009

Wonderful Weekend:Part 2

With the disappointment of the Lions defeat to South Africa on Saturday (a game that we could have and should have won !) still weighing heavily I definately felt that a "twitch"would help to redress the balance,afterall we were "on a roll" after the Friday evening success with the Woodchat Shrike. The Little Bittern at Walton Heath on the Somerset levels seemed a good target,not too far to travel and a cracking bird to get. I'd seen a couple (of Little Bitterns that is !) skulking around the edge of a man-made lake on a golf course whilst on holiday in Portugal about 5 years ago but had not caught up with one in this country,a "lifer" as well for Dan and Geth. Dan and Gethin really fancied the trip but Wayne and Kev had other comittments. From the reports on Birdguides the majority of the sightings seemed to be either early morning or evening time,with Dan away in Mid Wales until Sunday lunchtime we thought we'd give it a go late Sun p.m/evening. We arrived at the reserve at about 5.30pm and there were already a number of small groups of birders scanning the reedbeds from various locations along the main track. Dan had already called in at the site on his way back from Cornwall on business earlier in the week so we already knew the location the bird favoured. We set up position and were joined by a few other birders,a couple of boring hours passed only broken by good views of a Cuckoo perched in a tree out on the marsh,there's only so long you can scan acres of reedbeds !! The bird was constantly calling so we were able to judge it's approximate position,after a couple of hours which felt like an eternity the bird showed briefly giving a very short 3-4 sec flight view !! Gotcha,enough of a view to "tick" it but we wanted more and were not to be disappointed. Tunnocks all round then,if The Twitchmeister gets anymore "lifers" we'll be overdosing on caramel wafers !! After about another 15mins it broke cover again and gave a good 60-70 m flight view before settling astride the top of the reeds in full view,how lucky is that!!

Great excitment amongst our small group of gathered birders as the bird perched for a couple of minutes giving excellent views,I managed a quick still photograph through the 'scope and then changed to video mode to capture a pleasing if at times juddery "digi-vid"record.

This completely exceeded our expectations as we only bargained on a couple of brief flight views at best if we caught up with our target.

The bird took off again and disappeared to our right out of view,Gethin still needed Great Bittern,Barn Owl,Marsh Harrier and views of Cetti's Warbler for his life list so we set off in search down the track on our way back to the jeep.

Hard to believe that the young "boy-birder" has seen Roller,Bee-eater,Pacific Diver and Stilt-Sandpiper in the UK but not any of the afore-mentioned !!!

A call from one of the other birders alerted us to a Cattle Egret as it passed overhead and an excited Geth soon found his own Barn Owl quartering the rough ground on the far side of Ham Wall.

Another shout gave us a flying Great Bittern and then in the same field of view in the bins was the Little Bittern flying alongside it !! Now there's a sight you don't see everyday !!

They both disappeared into the reeds and we were soon watching another hunting Barn Owl.

Dan and "The Twitchmeister" went off to look for a nearby calling Cetti's Warbler and I picked out a hunting male Marsh Harrier which gave good if all too brief views and young Geth wasn't able to get on to it,his only "dip" of the day.

We then preceeded to get a couple more excellent flight views of the Little Bittern before in the gathering gloom we decided to call it a night.

What an evening out and a really "golden" 45 mins or so with "crippling" views of Little Bittern and Great Bittern,Barn Owl,Cattle Egret and Marsh Harrier also "in the bag".

There sure were three smug,satisfied "Birders in Boxers" who headed back over the Severn crossing into an appropriate "golden" sunset.

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