Tuesday 13 September 2011

Picking up binoculars almost felt strange...

Got back from an exhausting interrailing trip around Europe late last Thursday, and have been catching up with friends in the meantime, as well as recovering from Outlook Festival. I've developed a nice cough and cold, too. The only interesting birds I saw whilst away were a couple of Spoonbills from the train somewhere near Amsterdam, and a few Black Kites here and there.

So today, it felt almost alien to be hanging my bins round my neck again. With seabirds and Nearctic waders seemingly littering the west of Britain and Ireland, surely it was only fair to hope for a possible straggler this afternoon. So, with that in mind, I headed out to do a few local Deepings sites that have traditionally been decent for both the families mentioned above.

First stop was Deeping Highbank. Whilst concentrating on a large (predominately Black-headed) gull flock on and around the River Welland, I was pleasantly surprised to see two terns struggling into the gale towards me. Bins up and yes, nice one! Two splendid juvenile Arctic Terns, that proceeded to give fantastic views as they slowly moved upriver and past where I was parked. Shortly after, a juvenile Common Tern came cruising by, providing a useful comparison for someone as rusty as I with juvenile commic tern identification (or just birds in general to be honest). Encouraged by a bit of dynamism, I decided to head upriver to Deeping Lakes - the old stomping ground of birder-cum-butcher Will Bowell. The main lake here (imaginitively known as "The Lake") produced another (or the same?) juvenile Common Tern and a lot of common ducks, but not much else. A turquoise-green nasal-banded female Pochard was also there but wasn't close enough to read the lettering.

And so, via a trip to see my Gran, I headed back to my beloved patch of Baston & Langtoft Pits. Amongst the throng of myxomatosis-filled rabbits, there were a few birds. On the ARC Pit, a small collection of Lesser Black-backed Gulls revealed a surprise - a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull. Now, I've seen michs on my patch before, but most have been adults (plus one 1st-winter in September several years ago). To see a 2nd-winter was really quite surprising, especially amongst so few gulls! Nice bonus anyway.

2nd-winter michahellis giving it some wing, tail and leg action on the patch

On the nearby old Slurry Pit were a couple of Green Sandpipers, with a third over the road on Corner Pit. I checked the Jet Ski Pit for any terns or gulls but there was nothing, so I headed round to North Pit. On arrival, it was clear there were a few more birds here but, true to form, a juvenile Peregrine bombed through and scattered everything but the geese and a mass of Pochard. Most the gulls came back down but I suspected any waders present would be heading away from the area as rapidly as possible as I set up my 'scope. Never mind; there were over 100 Pochards present - no Ferruginous Duck yet but a nice eclipse drake Tufted x Pochard hybrid. It looks darker than the 'usual' Deepings hybrid and thus may be different, although perhaps this is because it's plumage is still a bit grotty. There was also a yellow nasal-saddled female Pochard.

Another hybrid - where are the genuine rares?!

There were also a few of the ever-present Little Egrets, and about 20 or so Teal. Then, quite remarkably, my second Yellow-legged Gull of the evening dropped in with an adult Lesser Black-backed - bizarrely, another second-winter. Definitely a different bird due to much more advanced scapular moult, bill colouration and tertials:

More patch michahellis action

The new Slurry Pit revealed a mini gull roost including about 30 or so LBB Gulls (couldn't see either of the michs but they were flighty). Another Green Sandpiper was here but no other waders tonight. I didn't care though, I was chuffed with my Yellow-legged Gulls. Call me distasteful.

Anyway, things seem alot more dynamic now than when I left two and a half weeks ago. Will be interesting to see if anything new drops in in the next few days. Fingers crossed.

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