Climb up and over the revetment and drop down into the dunes and after just a few metres you can’t hear the beach or smell the burger van.
Pyramidal Orchids everywhere, uneffected by the heat.
The dunes were inevitably quiet at Ainsdale but I fancied a spot of dragonflying so headed up to Slack 47 at lunchtime.
No fewer than four Emperor Dragonflies were absolutely owning the airspace there, while Four Spot Chasers and Southern Hawkers kept a low profile.
A family of Willow Warblers were vocal around the pool, but Reed Bunts and Whitethroats were hardly bothering. Marsh Helleborine flowering all over the place, with Dune Helleborines only days away.
Quite a few Red Admirals fluttering past – part of a Europe-wide movement in the heat plume and Sands Lake had five Black Tailed Skimmers, but I couldn’t see the two Common Sands that were there yesterday – an odd date for them on the coast.
Back at Dempsey Towers a nest-jumping Blackcap youngster hid in the coils of our hosepipe until it’s mother ushered it back into cover as Magpies pretended not to be looking.
Hot hot hot.
Looking summery and fine out in the ever taller vegetation at Marshside, the two lingering Cattle Egrets were probably the high point of a sunny wander today, as they mooched about amongst the growing infestation of feral geeses and clamouring fledged BHGs.
Earlier I called in at Mere Sands, still oddly devoid of any lasting monument to Trops’ recent klutziness there, but there was a good variety of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing and a few Southern Marsh Orchids blooming.
Several Chiffchaffs were still singing fit to burst, with Willow Warblers more feeble, and just the one singing Blackcap.
Corn Bunts jangling in the nearby fields, but not much else – gonna have to work harder for stuff over the coming weeks…
The invertebrate and plant-heavy lull of June is best medicated against by a spot of down and dirty filthy twitching – step on up then the Pagham Harbour Elegant Tern which was today’s object of feathery desire.
Mike Stocker and June Watt collected me at an ungodly hour, and June stoically motored us all the way down the tarmac and through the Oxfordshire Red Kite rush hour (and all the way back too, god bless her), so that we were walking out to survey Pagham’s tern island in West Sussex by 0730 today.
A good crowd was already there, scanning the distant island, a clamour of Med Gulls (100+), Sarnie and Little Terns.
Although the Elegant Tern flew into the island colony at about 0815 after a few hours fishing offshore it promptly disappeared into the vegetation where the terns and gulls were raising young but I kept my eye locked to the ‘scope in the area it had been seen and at 0845 I was rewarded as the big long-winged tern rose out of the weeds to drift through my lens, it’s long thin yellow bill startlingly obvious.
The bill is undoubtedly the bird in this case, but colour rings (even visible in some of my lousy long distance pix) reveal it to be an adult male, first ringed down in France, possibly as long ago as 2003.
Stat-boy Stocker informs me this individual has made it down as far as South Africa twice since then, and although it usually prefers to spend its summers in the Gironde, its pervy interest in a Sandwich Tern at Pagham suggests it’ll be holidaying on this side of the channel this season.
Not bad for a bird that’s meant to be in the Pacific.
After an hour or so of “hide and seek” in the vegetation, as the Elegant Tern occasionally rose for a few tantalising seconds before dropping back out of sight, it finally flew out to bathe on a channel with the Sarnies, dwarfing Little Terns, as Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker called at our backs, and Little Ringed and Ringed Plover scudded about.
The adult male Elegant looked huge in flight, but not so much so on the deck, but then its shaggy crest and daft bill made it easy to pick up.
Its bendy bill looked longer, more obvious in flight than it did when the bird was on the mud if that makes sense, but it was clearly not as heavy at the beezer on last year’s Royal in Kerry, which had much darker primaries…there were some darker grey primary feathers on today’s Elegant too, but generally it looked long-winged and very white, with pearly grey uppers and a snow white rump and tail.
Tickety tick tick.
We detoured to the New Forest on the way back north for a civilised, if windy hour or so at a well-known watch point where we picked up two Goshawks, a displaying Woodlark, Stonechats, Hobby and numerous Common Buzzards – no Honeys though, but this wasn’t such a surprise in the cloudy, windy conditions.
I can’t remember when I last saw a Treecreeper on the deck… stunned Woodpigeons beneath the back windows at Dempsey Towers certainly, a very angry Sprawk once and even a “ghost owl” outline on the double glazing courtesy of a myopic local Tawny, but never a Treecreeper.
November Woodcock fatalities were regular around the glass-clad office blocks in the days when I worked in Liverpool, and I once saw a Nuthatch squished flat on the back of a timber lorry on Old Hall Street, but never a Treecreeper.
So thanks to Janet Grant for sending me this pic from the weekend.
Janet explained: “Found this little fella in my driveway in Crosby on Sunday morning. I think it either flew into kitchen window or was just totally knackered.
“I checked on him/her every 10-15 mins for about an hour and half and then watched it fly off and hug the telegraph pole outside our house”.
Janet added: “First for me as a garden tick and very happy it was okay in the end”.
Love the idea of the ‘creeper hugging the telegraph pole – great description Janet.
Shimmery and warm this last two days on Plex, which is great if you’re a Lapwing chick-swiping Common Buzzard (shameful behaviour) or a Wall Brown butterfly, otherwise it is getting all too June.
Some real megas have turned up in these quiet weeks over the years of course.
But not on Plex.
A calling Cuckoo out there yesterday afternoon was unexpected, but all too brief.
Time to get into the bugs and the blooms then as the long haul till late July starts.
Lots of them out to play with.
Sadly I have found evidence of orchids being removed from no less than three different local sites over the last fortnight, so readers will understand if I am particularly circumspect about locations…
Meanwhile time to sit back and enjoy the Corn Bunts, Yellowhammers and sun.
Spent the afternoon trying to will a few more waders onto the lagoon at Nels without success.
A Little Stint was with the Dunlin. Earlier Ron Jackson had two of the titchy critters there.
At least two large, winter plumage-type long-billed race Dunlins in the flock, and a single Ruff and Curlew dropped into join the Ringed Plover, Blackwits and Avocets etc.
The Stint never really came close enough, preferring the far side of the lagoon, but it looked nice and crisp through the ‘scope.
Yesterday Whitethroats were taking on that “dragged through a hedge backwards” look at Lunt, with the Lapwings there a bit more presentable.
HOM was also quiet over the hot high tides before the weekend, although the super-elegant Arctic Terns there helped pass the time.
In happier days the late, great Eric Hardy would refer to Martin Mere in print and on the wireless (anyone remember the “wireless”?), using not-so-shorthand as “Janet Kear’s duck brothel”.
Hardy would have had a wry smile on his face today then as a Whistling Duck (probably Fulvous, but not quite right with those oh-so-pale undercrackers), rocked up at Nels at Marshside to join the ranks of ignominy alongside the Cruddy Shelduck, Golden Pheasant and the Little White Goose (among others).
M’learned friends inform me there were three at Frodsham recently, so someone’s obviously left a gate open somewhere…
I didn’t see the whistler fly for most of the two hours I was at Nels in the scorchio today, but judging by those ridiculous blue splitty-splatties it could easily have walked in – thanks to Bazzo for the tip-off, if that’s the right term in relation to such a surreal arrival at the marsh.
To be fair, the bird did fly a short distance later on, and looked quite bewildered by the experience, otherwise it slept a lot, then went feeding in the shallows like a deranged submarine Shoveler, it’s neck underwater diver-stylee as it thrashed about in the gloop with its bill.
Mad as a lorry.
Far more sensible observations today included two winter plumage Knot amongst the Black Tailed Godwits from Nels, eight Dunlin and a Golden Plover.
Sprawk and Common Buzzards sparked a few dreads and a surprise Painted Lady butterfly tottered south past the hide as I digested my latest helping of plastic.
Plenty of giggles padded out the hours when spring Spurn fever failed to kick in today after Neill picked up myself, Andy and Jason and raced over to the east coast.
Drizzle and cloud giving way to bright, warm sun in May – surely the old place would come up with the goods?
We overtook a hunting Barn Owl out near the Broom’s Cross road, before slipping into warp and were pulling up near Sunk Island for 9am.
After a bit of soil scouring, a gorgeous trip of seven Dotterels gave themselves up as Skylarks, Cuckoo and Whitethroats sang. Brilliant.
As ever, despite the lovely colours, the Dotterels could melt into the soil of the field remarkably well, their presence betrayed only by their dark bellies and shocking white supers, that met in a stunning “v” on their napes.
Superb scope views as they fed, but too far away for anything but blurry long range zoom pictures of one of my favourite birds…it was a relief to see them as another season of checking Plex on an almost daily basis comes to a close again without Dotterel joy on this side of the Pennines.
At least two full adult females in the trip, it was so good to see ’em again, who cares if they were too far off for the camera?
Moving round to Sammy’s Point it was quiet – a few Brent Geese on the Humber, Whitethroats, Sedgies etc, although two ringtail Hen Harriers circling south raised hopes for a raptor day.
A dirty great Short Eared Owl hunting the bank opposite Kilnsea Wetlands also hinted stuff was on the move, a joy to watch as it patrolled in the bright sun.
But after that the wheels fell off a tad – Beacon Lane had Lesser Whitethroat, Brimstone, Wall Brown and Orange Tip butterflies, and a few Wheatears were around a traumatically gussied up Canal Zone car park.
Little Terns scooted out to sea from Beacon Ponds and another Cuckoo was calling but other than that it was quietening down, apart from a steady hirundine movement south, so we pulled out and headed into the desolate, perplexing and altogether daunting massif of Thorne Moors on the way home.
The sound of duelling banjos is still echoing in me head.
Three hours after arriving we were still trying to find the location of a male Red Footed Falcon there, but other than close hunting Marsh Harriers, this vast vast vast area simply mocked our woeful lack of gen, chewed us up and spat us out onto the M62 for the ride home with The King (if you haven’t got a copy of “Gravelands” you don’t know what you’re missing…)
Chin chin to Neill, Andy and Jase – see you all soon…
Couldn’t let all that lovely drizzly rain go to waste, so I went for a quick walk around Sands Lake at Ainsdale after work this evening.
Willow Warblers, Chiffies and Blackcaps still singing away and a Common Sandpiper whirring around the edges (but there’s been one there for a week or so now) in the humid conditions.
A darting shape in the canopy up at the top end revealed what I was hoping for – a fine Spotted Flycatcher.
I know Spot Flys are meant to be zippy by trade, but even by flycatcher standards this one was particularly hyperactive – every second or two it set off on circular forays above the trees, I could barely keep me bins on it!
It was a good ten minutes before the bird had one of those “still periods” flycatchers seem to enjoy, as if they’re pondering how much energy they expend just to get tea.
I managed to get a few point and press shots of it through the branches before it zoomed off through the leaves again.
This just left me time for inevitable Spotfly nostalgia for the days when they were regular local breeders, before heading home…
Today is a bit like that sequence in “Goodfellas” just before the DEA/ATF come crashing through Ray Liotta’s door (except without all the naughty stuff of course) – I had to check a party of visiting archaeolgists were safely ensconsed on the coast, get the missus to a concert she’s playing in this afternoon, then pick up Mrs D’s folks and my mum and get them to the concert, find somewhere to park in Southport on the hottest day of the year, pick up some shopping, …and there’s two singing Wood Warblers at Marshside on the golf course (and naturally there’s a golf tournament on).
Thanks to Playful Pete Allen and Alan Wright sending updates I was able to detour to the marsh and catch up with one of the lemon sherbet heads as it spluttered away by the public footpath along the bank.
Glorious. Just glorious.
As Shaun Ankers and I tried to get glimpses of the Wood Warbler in the shade of the sun-blasted canopy, a Lesser Whitethroat started cranking up behind me, so close I could almost hear it draw breath between rattles – where to look?
Lovely to be spoilt for choice on the marsh, and the Wood Sand was still on Fairclough’s Pool.
Right back to concert taxi duties – you know it’s getting busy when you try to open the fridge using your car key fob…hmmmmmmm!!!!