Wednesday 4 June 2014

And breathe...

Dorset's Smooth Snakes and Sand Lizards could finally un-clench on Monday morning as it became apparent that the Short-toed Eagle had moved on. Although I saw the bird twice and only really had to wait a couple of hours between the initial sighting and my own, it still left me with a buzz which I took with me on my return to work on Monday. I always expect something mega-rare in the first week of June because (i) there always is (ii) I'm always busy after a half-term break, and tied up the following weekend with the start of the camping season, Claire's birthday etc etc. No surprise then that a Spectacled Warbler turned up in Norfolk. But not even that prediction being proved  correct could wipe the smile off this week as the Eagle had already got June off to a flying start.

Terrible photos of tiny waders #1: Little Ringed Plover at Swineham 24th May
Terrible photos of tiny waders #2: just a single bird present for the day
I had the whole week off, and, fortunately with hindsight, we decided not to go away. The downside of this was that the bills still rolled in through the letter box, and I was constantly reminded about the windows needing cleaning, gutters wanting fixing etc. The up-side was that I could get away with a lot more local birding and was a bit freer to twitch should something good turn up.
Terrible photos of tiny waders #3: Temminck's Stint at Lodmoor, 30th May
Terrible photos of tiny waders #4: here with a Ruff for size comparison.
It started with the best of intentions, flogging the patch in the hope of re-discovering the Black-winged Stilts which turned up last time I went away, or the Great White Egret which had been burning the candle at both ends, going out early and coming back late to roost and feed at mystery locations. The Stilts returned - but to nearby Lytchett Bay not Swineham, and, having dissed this site in a previous post I was too proud to beg it's guardians for access to the off-limits location. Several early/late shifts failed to turn up the Egret as well, so not a great start to the week.

Spotted Flycatcher at Morden Bog: taken just 3 days before the Eagle arrived
Treecreeper at Morden Bog with spider
But perseverance was rewarded with a patch tick in the form of a Turnstone. Not exactly a bird to get anyone else's pulse racing, except perhaps Marcus, but surprisingly rare at Swineham. By Wednesday, the Turnstone looked like it might be the highlight of the week: a poor return for my efforts by any standard. Then things picked up with a Serin at Durlston that morning, a Ross's Gull on the Exe Estuary in the afternoon, and the following day a Temminck's Stint at Lodmoor offered the chance of a Dorset tick which I duly snaffled up in a quick smash and grab.
Twitching the Temminck's provided an opportunity to catch up with the Arctic Tern which has summered with the Common Terns in recent years
Arctic Tern in the foreground - a slighter, shorter-legged and more blood-red billed bird than the Common Tern behind
Throughout the week my kit was packed for an emergency twitch - 'have leave, will travel' being my motto at times like this - and news of a Slender-billed Gull in Norfolk had me haring off in that direction on Monday in pursuit. Reason and mathematics fortunately intervened soon after as it dawned on me that (a) I wouldn't get there before dark (b) it was Bank Holiday Monday so I might be stuck on the M25 until Tuesday. I had got no further than Longham Lakes by this point, and the bird disappeared in any case, so a lucky escape there at least.
Arctic Tern on the left - not the long tail streamers and neat black line on the trailing edge of the primaries
Here quite a dark-billed Common Tern coming in to land...
Bee-eaters were appearing everywhere throughout the week: on the ringing nets at Portland Bill, on wires at Durlston, and chatting up the locals in bars with their smooth continental patter. I was up and down to the Portland and Purbeck coast like a quarry lorry but just couldn't get there fast enough to add one of these stunners to my Dorset list. Then the Eagle appeared to sweep all the best laid weekend plans away with one flap of its awesome wings. I spent the rest of the weekend resisting the massive temptation to write blog posts with Eagle-based puns in the title, figuring they would all be taken by other bloggers anyway. Andy Mears said he was looking forward to my post, so good to know it was eagley-awaited by one person at least. See what I did there?

...and a Sandwich Tern to complete the collection
And one more of the Ross's Gull - High Arctic wanderer and bird of the week until elbowed out of the way by a certain raptor from warmer climes.

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