Great Blue Heron, Bryher, then Hudsonian Godwit, Somerset – an astonishing 48 hrs

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My Banana Splits ‘jamas were still warm this morning, and the sand of Bryher still clung to my boots, but when the Hudsonian Godwit of fate (or rather a road-raddled Neill Hunt) comes calling you can’t say no.
We’d only returned from our successful day-trip to the Isles of Scilly for the Great Blue Heron at 1.30am this morning, but we were back on the road down to Somerset and the vast reedbeds and pools around Meare Heath by 12.15pm – what’s 1,300 miles in 48 hours between friends???
Got to Meare for about 4.15pm and joined the large crowd to learn that the Hudsonian Godwit had just flown off – Bitterns, Great White Egrets and Cetti’s Warblers were small consolation.

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Luckily the Hudsonian Godwit flew back a few minutes later and we had stunning views as it fed on a lagoon with Blackwits.

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If you’ve ever wondered if you’d miss one of these things in a flock of godwits, don’t worry, it was really obviously darker than any of the Blackwits, despite the fact that at some angles the bird looked almost sandy – but never as light as a winter plumaged or young Blackwit.
The Hudwit had gorgeous crisp tight barring on the dark, brick reddish-flecked belly and vent and a yellowish upturned bill with dark tip.
Its chest and head was paler.
It really jumped out in the scope.
About the same size as the Blackwits, when it flew its amazing dark underwings with a white flash contrasted strongly with the bird’s white rump – an incredible critter.
Superb views, but by the time I’d stopped ogling it and got my camera out I found the reeds of the lagoon bank prevented me getting a single in-focus digiscoped shot as my “point-and-press” kept focussing on the stems rather than the bird.
I’ll include this – if you squint really hard, you can just make out some of the barring on the underparts, but I don’t think I’ll be sticking it on Surfbirds any time soon.

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I hoped the bird would walk closer to us and I could blat away unhindered by vegetation but suddenly all the waders took off, the godwits wheeled about in front of us (breathtaking flight views of the underwing) and then split up.
About 70 landed back on the pool again, but the Hudsonian superstar and about 15 others kept flying and disappeared from view over the reeds and scrub at about 4.30pm.
It didn’t come back, but its still burned on my retina now.
No such problems with yesterday’s Great Blue Heron on Bryher.
With Pete Allen and Jason Stannage, Neill and I had set out at 11pm on Thursday, ripping south by south west in the blue streak of acceleration that were Neill’s wheels.
Racing past Indian Queens with the rising sun at our backs, we boarded the Scillonian III from Penzance at 0915, landing on St Mary’s at midday.
Jason had craftily booked us a boat in advance to get to Bryher, so we jumped aboard the jet-powered Falcon, and were leaping ashore on Bryher before you could say “agapanthus”.
A brisk walk over to the Hell Bay Hotel and Great Pool later and the Great Blue Heron flew in to show off.
Huge, bandy legged and balding on the crown I can honestly say the massive Yankee heron was a prime candidate for ugliest mega ever.
Its raggedy mantle feathers didn’t help, and despite its excellent herony fishing skills it looked like it had been dragged through a big hedge backwards.
We were all delighted to see it though.

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Great tickety tick – happy days!

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Tree Pipits, Wheatear, Little Egrets and a few phylloscs helped pass the time before the Falcon came to pick us up and whisk us back to St Mary’s, where we managed to ram a swift Guinness down in the Mermaid (scene of so many riotous days back when) before boarding the Scillonian.

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Sailing over earlier in the day Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannets and auks passed the Scillonian, but the cruise back was best spent trying to grab some shut-eye below decks in preparation for the next round of Man versus Tarmac.
What an astonishing couple of days – two mega tickety ticks and wonderful company, but I don’t think I wanna see a motorway again for a little while (unless a Calandra turns up at Flamboro’ tomorrow of course Neill).

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4 thoughts on “Great Blue Heron, Bryher, then Hudsonian Godwit, Somerset – an astonishing 48 hrs

  1. Marshside/Crossens, 1150-1515: Passerine migration virtually non-existent in the face of a stiff, cold north-westerly: 12 Swallows, 7 House Martins, 2 Whitethroats and a solitary female Wheatear made up the list. Some consolation as a winter-plumage Curlew Sandpiper dropped onto the marsh in front of Nel’s Hide in a mixed flock of c.40 Dunlins and 20 Ringed Plovers.
    And yes, the Little Gull is still here.

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  2. Seaforth – 26/04/15

    1 x Wheatear
    1 x Little Ringed Plover
    5 x Whimbrel
    2 x Turnstone
    9 x Dunlin
    13 x Sandwich Tern
    1 x Iceland Gull

    Lots of Swifts, Swallows and both Martin species overhead.

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  3. There’s a song in the air at RSPB Leighton Moss thanks to nature’s wonderful symphony – and visitors can discover the magic of these early morning vocal masterpieces for themselves at a very special event.
    To celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 3 May, visitors are invited to join a guided ‘Dawn Chorus Walk’ at 4 am and experience the incredible sounds of the Silverdale reserve much earlier in the morning than usual.
    After a guided walk through the reserve’s reedbed and woodland trails, the event will be followed by a full English or vegetarian breakfast in the reserve’s award- winning café at 7.30 am. The Dawn Chorus Walk event costs £15 (RSPB members £12). However, if a 4 am start is too early, then visitors can join a Birdsong for Beginners event, on Sunday 24 May running from 7.30-10 am. It includes a bacon or veggie bap at the end and the cost is £10 (RSPB members £8).
    Due to the popularity of these events, advanced booking is essential. Please phone Leighton Moss visitor centre on 01524 701601 to secure a place.
    For more information on other events held at Leighton Moss throughout the year, visit the website at http://www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss

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