Just when I thought spring had passed me by….

25 Apr

25/4/18 As I was getting ready to go out this morning there was a report of Red-rumped Swallow at Hornsea Mere. I had missed a few there in the past but having not renewed my permit for the hides this year I decided to give it a miss and go to Tophill Low NR as planned. Started in the centre hide where, after seeing a few at High Eske NR on Monday, I wasn’t surprised to have a few Swift high over the north end of D reservoir. With nothing of note on the water I headed south with hope of waders, but at South Marsh East I didn’t even have the pair of Little Ringed Plover or Redshanks I had seen last week. Did get my first Common Tern though.

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Common Tern in South Marsh East Black-headed Gull colony-Tophill Low NR

However from back-to-back hide had a Red Kite disappearing low north towards the lagoons. By South Marsh West added Sedge Warbler to my site year list. Also a few Reed and Cetti’s Warblers singing. In South Scrub added Lesser Whitethroat but Watton NR was also devoid of waders. Did have a pair of prospecting Common Tern and five Little Egret. Heading back north heard a probable Whitethroat song but a sudden shower made me move on. Thought of sheltering in the centre hide, with the possibly of the rain forcing something down, but the weather improved before I got there so continued north up the road hoping for a Wheatear on the reservoir wall but only had a few Yellow and Pied Wagtails [had a Common Sandpiper earlier from the centre.] Did hear a good Whitethroat in the bushes by Barmston Drain though. Getting to the top of D reservoir planned to listen for the recent Grasshopper Warbler in North Scrub but decided to have a quick look at Hempholme Meadows. MS was already in the hide and told me a Bittern was in the vegetation under the fence by the road. It had been seen and photographed much closer and in the open but I initially couldn’t see it. When I did spot its head my first thought was ‘this isn’t a European Bittern’ and I tried to remember whether the long staying Suffolk American Bittern had been seen today. However when it got more into the open it had a long snake-like neck and although brown wasn’t streaked on the body-an obvious Purple Heron. Rang RH’s mobile but only got his voice mail. Tried to get a few pictures but it too distant and the light poor.

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My best shot of Purple Heron on Hempholme Meadow.

With no reply from RH I went ahead and texted RBA but didn’t give the exact location to stop twitchers trying to view via Hempholme Lock. Pity the only other heron was a Grey as a Great White Egret and a few Little Egret have been almost guaranteed recently. Four species together would have been a spectacle!

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Great White and Little Egret on Hempholme Meadow-18/4/18

Was running short of time now as I had to get home to eat then take the dog out, as well as making sure ‘on site instructions’ did exist before the first birder arrived. Grasshopper Warbler would have to wait another day. Back at the centre spoke to MC, who I hadn’t seen for 12+ years. He had just spoken to the photographer who had pictures of a “bittern” so back tracked and managed to get a ‘back of camera’ picture from him, much better than my efforts.

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“Back of camera shot” of Purple Heron on Hempholme Meadow

I first saw Purple Heron at Tophill Low NR in 1994, when the L-shaped hide first put to test, although there had been a few earlier records. A brilliant picture of it by Tony Collinson My last was in 2011, this time on Watton NR.

Purple Heron Watton NR 220511 HVWG

Purple Heron at Tophill Low NR-22/5/11

Seen well into the evening and appears to have shown better than I saw it. Maybe try for better shot tomorrow if the hide isn’t to packed, although I can always flash my Vol.warden badge if necessary!

Checking the Hornsea Mere blog looks like I have struggled with Red-rumped Swallow anyway.

26/4/18 The Purple Heron was still present early then reportedly flew east after being disturbed by a birder on the road. However it was back mid afternoon although distant but then flew south early evening.

27/4/18 Reported flying towards Hempholme Meadow late morning but no further sign by early evening. Please note, unless announced otherwise, only birders with an annual permit can be on site after 6pm or before 9pm. Also only view from hides and do not walk along the road or riverbank beside Hempholme Meadow.

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