Friday 13 November 2009

Two trips to Pegwell, 8th & 12th November

Since Sunday, I have visited Pegwell Bay twice.

Round One
I left Lincolnshire with punter's-favourite Will Bowell at around 23:00 on Saturday 7th, arriving at Pegwell Bay some time just after 02:30. A few hours' kip were had, and the day dawned bitterly cold, windy and overcast - perfect for seeing what has been an elusive bird at the best of times. Sure enough, in the time we spent at Pegwell (until c.10:30), the Shitting Zisticola failed to show - the only saving graces being time to sleep in the car and an excellent breakfast butty from the car park cafe (more on that later). In fact, we didn't see much at all. From the comfort of the car, I had two Swallows fly south (I think my latest ever), and the dregs of the recent Woodpigeon passage were in evidence - c.200 went south. We decided we couldn't be bothered to hang around, and headed home. A quick diversion to Grafham Water (Cambs) produced three Great Northern Divers off Mander car park, two adults and a juvenile:
Adult Common Loons rocking around Grafham.
Just as I walked in to the door, out came the pager message - "Cisticola again showing well this afternoon". Bugger. Even more problematical was a possible female Siberian Rubythroat in Fife, but that one was soon scrapped when it was reidentified as a Bluethroat(!).

Round Two

Seeing that the forecast for the morning of Thursday 12th was very nice indeed, I decided late on 11th to head back down to Pegwell for first light. I arrived just before 04:00, and managed a couple of hours' sleep in the same spot at Saturday night. Up for 06:45, I drove round to the Jet garage, parked up, and walked south to the country park. First surprise of the morning was this:

Local youths had decided to burn down the cafe overnight, ruining my chances of a substantial breakfast. Nevertheless, the sunrise made up for it:

And sure enough, the weather was stunning. Sunny, flat calm and pleasantly mild - perfect conditions for searching for that little bastard bird. For the first hour or so, I was the only person on site - magic. A Water Pipit showed extremely well by the hide early morning, and a few scummy Ring-necked Parakeets flew over. At least one male Brambling showed well in a big finch flock in scrub by Shore Hide, as did 3+ Twite (one colour-ringed). However, by 09:00 there was no sign of the beast, although a few more A-team twitchers had shown up.

Rather than standing by the hide like a lemon all morning, I regularly walked up and down the seawall, going up to half a kilometre either way from the hide. This eventually paid off - just when I thought time was pressing and another dip was on the cards, out popped the Zitting Cisticola, announcing itself with a few chipping calls some 200 metres south of Shore Hide. Views were brief, but I don't recall ever being so excited by this species before. By the time I had called the other gathered birders across, the Cisticola had buried itself on the saltmarsh. Thankfully, it wasn't long before it lifted up again, but soon buried itself once more. After c.15 minutes of toying with us, the boy decided to porn it, sitting in pathside bushes and occasionally showing to 10 metres, calling regularly:

To be fair, it was a decent bird. Nice buff tones, and lots of arousing streaks on the upperparts. Sadly (as is often the case in the human world) the body was let down by a rather plain-looking face which looked like it had taken a few hits over time. Still, a great relief to see it on a such beautiful morning with a decent supporting cast and in pleasant settings. Dare I say it, but I actually enjoyed myself, and even made it back to Sheffield for 13:30!


  1. "Arousing streaks" down boy!

    Nice shot and good to know your not a lemon.

  2. Thanks Alan - was quite impressed with it considering I've always thought they were a bit shit abroad..!