Sunday, 5 July 2015

Old Moor RSPB, Spurn and Leighton Moss

A busy day today started at Old Moor RSPB near Sheffield at 5:30am. We started at the Bus Stop viewing point overlooking the reedbed, hoping to see a male little bittern which has been seen and heard on several occasions over the past week. After a fruitless wait of 90 minutes we received news that it had been seen from the Bittern hide a couple of hundred metres away. We had another wait of about 90 minutes in the hide before finally we saw the bird for about 15 seconds flying over the reed bed in the distance. Not the greatest view in the World but typical of the kind of views that this bird has been giving in recent days.

While we were waiting for the little bittern we were entertained by at least two kingfishers, but more importantly we received news of a white-rumped sandpiper at Kilnsea near Spurn on the east coast. The weather had been pretty grim up to this point, so as soon as we'd seen the little bittern we headed back to the car and set off for Spurn, about 90 miles away to the north east in the hope of finding both the bird and the sun. We were not disappointed.

The white-rumped sandpiper was on Beacon pool near Kilnsea wetlands. It was a decent view through the scope and we saw it fly a couple of times as it was harrassed by ringed plover and avocets. When it flew it had a very obvious white rump. It was a nice summer plumage adult bird, in contrast to the duller juveniles which I am more familiar with in autumn. After we had watched it for about 20 minutes it was chased over the shingle ridge and onto the beach by a ringed plover, and was not seen again for at least six hours. Breeding on the shingle at the side of the pool there is a colony of about 100 little terns which showed well throughout.

It was still only 13:00 and we were a bit unsure what to do next, but news of an adult white-winged black tern at Leighton Moss made up our minds. On hearing the news of the bird, we had initially planned to go tomorrow, but with time to spare today and with the bird still present and no guarantee that it would be there tomorrow, we decided that we may as well make our way back over the Pennines and go to Leighton Moss.

I saw my first summer plumage white-winged black tern in the UK at Martin Mere earlier in the year, but they're always great birds to see. We saw it first today from the Public hide in good light but a little distant, and then we moved to the Lower hide where it was closer but the light was much worse. At least here it was on constant show though, hawking for insects and occasionally perching in a post in the middle of the mere. While we were watching it somebody pointed out three marsh harriers. I raised my bins to look at them, but almost immediately spotted a fourth bird higher up over the mere and hovering! Surely an osprey? It was right into the sun at first but soon it moved further to the right and I could see its head and underwing markings clearly. Definitely an osprey! We watched it hovering and flying over the mere for several minutes before amazingly a second osprey appeared from nowhere! At times we had both ospreys hunting together, occasionally mobbed by a marsh harrier, with the white-winged black tern hawking in the foreground. An amazing sight! I just wish the light had been better for photography, but how could I complain after a day like that?!

Year: 234 (Little bittern, white-rumped sandpiper)

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