Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Quality birding

They said I had to go and see it and they were correct. Amazingly 30 years ago to the day since my last white-billed diver, I arrived at Kirkstead bridge on the River Witham near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire in horrible weather. Dull and misty with heavy drizzle. It was so bad that I even contemplated not taking my camera because what was the point? The juvenile white-billed diver which has been here for at least a couple of weeks can roam long distances from the bridge, sometimes up to 3 or 4 miles north and I have to say that was not an appealing thought in this weather!

However undeterred I set out walking and decided to head north from the bridge because that seemed to be the birds favourite stretch of river. I hadn't been going for more than 10 minutes when I got news that the bird had been seen flying south along the river an hour earlier. Birders walking south had not seen it so it looked as though it had gone beyond the bridge before I had arrived. Fortunately there was a road on the west bank heading south, so I decided to go back to the car and take the road.

I really thought I was going to fail to see this bird, I drove on and on searching for it with no luck, until eventually, 2.7 miles from the bridge I saw what looked like a goose swimming down the river. It was obviously the diver, and what a bird it was! It makes great northern look whimpy, with the most incredible dagger like bill.

A typical English scene. A white-billed diver sails slowly along a river in rural Lincolnshire.......

A famous birder once said "real birds eat fish" and this is surely all of the evidence required that he was correct! I was able to watch the bird from the car, and I was pleased I did have my camera with me because I think that the photos turned out ok. A stunner, and like they told me, not to be missed. Later in the day the bird was reported as being 4 miles south of the bridge, giving it a range of at least 8 miles on the river.

Also today ring-necked duck and Egyptian geese at Kirkby on Bain, both new for the year, bringing my year total to:

UK Year: 157 (White-billed diver, ring-necked duck, Egyptian goose)

Yesterday we called in for the pine bunting at Dunnington, West Yorkshire. We'd already seen pine bunting earlier in January at Venus Pools, but that was a female, whereas the Dunnington bird was an adult male. Also if I'm honest, given the doubt surrounding some of the later sightings of the Venus Pools bird (including my own), I thought it prudent to try to get a second bird under my belt. It took about 90 minutes, but eventually the bird showed well at the top of a tree and we were able to move on quicker than expected.

Our next stop was Welwick wetlands in East Yorkshire, where we found the pallid harrier was on show as soon as we arrived. Also in the area a black brant with 300 dark-bellied brents and a two pale-bellied birds.

Given the time of year there's been some great birding to be had recently. Since I came back from Cyprus on 17th December (46 days ago), I've had five new species for the UK, and with two of those species I've seen two different individuals! New birds since 17/12 have been dusky thrush, black-throated thrush (x2), pine bunting (x2), blue rock thrush (pending) and Pacific diver.

Slavonian grebe at Cleethorpes Country Park  02/02/2017

One of two waxwings I stumbled across in Grainthorpe, Lincolnshire.

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