Tuesday 21 March 2023

Ducking and surfing

A bout of man-flu made the last week-and-a-bit not much fun, but by Friday it was lifting and, with the lighter evenings, there was just time to wander down to the patch at Swineham after work to check for a late departing Bittern, which use the site as a staging post in late February/early March, at dusk. No Bittern was seen but a pair of Mandarin Duck were my first patch tick since 2021 and also a new bird for the non-motorised year list. 

Mandarin Duck, Swineham, 17th March
A phone call from Paul Morton on Saturday morning saw me racing back down to Swineham as he relayed the remarkable news that a Bittern had been heard booming there. Unfortunately the boomer had gone quiet by the time arrived, but a Red Kite and a steady stream of Med Gulls made it worth the visit. I met up with a few other locals that evening back at Swineham as we felt sure the Bittern would leave in the still, clear conditions - but it wasn't to be. My first Sand Martins of the year were, however, some consolation.
Red Kite, Swineham, 18th April
Sunday was of course Mother's Day, and having sent flowers to my own, and ensured that my youngest son was teed up to make breakfast in bed for his, I was granted permission to get out early on the bike. With five Alpine Swift seen the night before at Stanpit and one in Bournemouth, this species was an obvious target, and I resolved to head for the nearest one.
Mediterranean Gull, Swineham, 18th March
I reached the salubrious surroundings of the Bournemouth Asda car park in under 90 minutes, arriving around 0800, where I bumped into my old friend Paul Welling and his son Zach, also hoping to see the Swift. Although the sun was rising rapidly it was still cold - too cold for a Swift to be out looking for breakfast, we wondered? 
Colour-ringed Curlew at Swineham, 18th March
There was no sign by 0900 but shortly after a message from Phil Saunders confirmed that at least one of the Stanpit birds was still present. It was 6 miles away, about half an hour by bike, but I made it shortly after Paul and Zach and, more importantly, just in time to see the Alpine Swift hawking over Christchurch Priory before it was lost to view.
This Slow Worm (top right) was pushing its luck smooching up to an Adder at Swineham
I phoned home to check on the Mother's Day situation and they had decided on a sofa day watching movies, rendering me surplus to requirements so, inspired by the example of all the other birders at Stanpit apparently neglecting loved ones, I started to think about other options to add to the year list. A phone call from Garry Hayman to say that he was watching a female Surf Scoter a further 11 miles to the east on the Solent helped make up my mind, and off I set.
White-tailed Eagle from a neighbour's garden on Bestwall Road, 6th March
Just over an hour later and I arrived at Pennington to find the Surf Scoter fairly close in to the shore. It was drifting west enabling us to walk out onto a jetty near the lagoons for an even closer view and some reasonable photos. A quality 'bike tick' bringing my non-motorised life list to a satisfyingly round 260. 
Surf Scoter, Pennington, 19th March
Conscious of the time I didn't linger and the journey home was one of the toughest yet into an energy-sapping, strengthening wind, during which it became apparent that the man-flu had taken quite a bit out of me. But after a nap and a shower I had just enough energy left after the 70 mile marathon to do my duty and rustle up a Mothering Sunday roast.
Note the all dark wings and pale patch on the nape

Surf Scoter

Showing the characteristically cocked tail

An impressive bird and a great addition to the bike list

Surf Scoter, Pennington, 19th March

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