Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scrumptious Arctic Roll

With a few possibles for the year in mind, but not any real plan, decided to head eastwards for the weekend. Saturday was a lovely sunny windless day so started at Pulborough Brooks where a couple of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had been seen over the past few days. There was some really good habitat but despite quite an extensive search, none could be located.
After bemoaning the lack of any sort of Green Woodpecker photo on my last post, I managed to get a  better one today. Although not much better, but it breaks up all this text at least.

The problem with this time of year is a lack of daylight hours and by the time we had had some food and checked the pager we realised there was only going to be enough time for one more target species.
The choice was Velvet Scoter that had been seen a couple of days ago off of Pagham or Velvet Scoters seen an hour ago at Island Barn Reservoir on the Surrey London border. One was a lovely place on a beautiful sunny day just down the road, but with no definite bird, the other was an hours drive to a shite reservoir, in a shall we say, not such a lovely place.
Much to Claires chagrin the choice was obviously the reservoir.
I have been to most of the reservoirs in this area but couldn't place which one it was. The pager mentioned that it was permit only but that doesnt usually pose too much of a problem. We looked up their website which mentioned how friendly they were, so we headed up.
On arrival I realised which one it was and knew we had made the wrong choice. We never got a chance to find out how friendly they were because the place would have put an Iron Age hill fort to shame.
 The first entrance had a large metal gate with 2 huge padlocks. So we couldnt drive in, but there was a place to walk through. However after a few minutes there was another padlocked gate. We thought we may have got the wrong entrance so tried another road. Here we got through the first gates but then were confronted by a moat system which ran right around the perimeter, with a spiked fence on the other side of the water just incase you decided to swim over!  On the other side of that a large embankment with a fence along the top for good measure. It was then that we decided to call it a day!
Not that I was obsessed with getting Velvet Scoter on the yearlist but whilst we were deciding what to do next I noticed there was one at Cliffe Pools that had been there a few days. There were also a few Waxwings in that area so we headed further east.
The next morning was much less inviting than  the day before but we had to drag ourselves out of bed early to give us a chance of getting the Velvet Scoter, then getting up to Suffolk for the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll.

Radar Pool, Cliffe. Not a place to inspire

Radar Pool is a bloody big pool.  There were a few near birds and a hell of a lot of distant ones. Luckily the Velvet Scoter was one of the nearer ones although you wouldnt guess it from this photo. It could have been a lot worse (in terms of getting an identifiable photo) as it was also asleep and didnt look like waking up until a flock of duck went low over its head making it put its head up for long enough to get this shot before it went back to sleep again.

290. Velvet Scoter

Still wondering how I was going to get another 10 BOU species before the 31st, I didnt help the cause by deciding to head up to Aldeburgh for the Hornemann's. (Having already seen Coue's in Jan) It would use up valuable time but hey it was a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll and it was showing very well!
The decision to go was not regretted! (understatement). Although on arrival there was initially a big sinking feeling when the amassed crowd suddenly started to disperse as I got out of the car. Walking off with their beaming faces, many looking in disbelief at the superb photos they had just taken. It was then a very tense few minutes whilst we tried to relocate the bird, which had flown off down the beach.
Thankfully it was soon refound and gave the most amazing views. We walked up to what was considered a respectable distance which was to be fair pretty close, but instead of walking away it actually walked nearer to us eventually coming to within just a few feet.

After filling our boots with fantastic views there was still time to try and get in another yeartick. The target bird was Caspian Gull at Rainham Marshes

Unfortunately with the tip not working today we had probably picked the quietest day of the week.
Nothing around the stone barges where 2 Caspo's had been seen yesterday