24th August. Moves Like Jaeger

Lots of talk during the week about how good the East Coast was going to be over the coming weekend, with some predicting classic fall conditions it seemed that even the hardiest patch workers would up sticks and make for the likes of Spurn and Flamborough. I on the other hand, having just returned from a short break on Anglesey and North Wales couldn't wait to get back to the patch.

Waking at 5am and eventually, after several spells of nodding back off, getting out at 6:30 the conditions looked the stuff of birding dreams - at least they would at one of the East Coast spots; low cloud, rain and a light easterly wind.

No birders present with just a dog walker for company (more on him later) I picked up 3 Common Scoters (2 drakes and a female type) immediately - things were looking promising. I walked along the eastern edge that still, despite the previous nights torrential rain, had a decent muddy edge. As usual I'd opted to leave the scope in the car, I find without it I look more intensely, and scanned through the ducks and gulls.  A small arrival of Teal and 4 Wigeon were another indication that things were moving and as I scanned the southern section of the largest lake I picked up a small dark "gull" sat on the water away from the other gulls.  A voice in my head said "shit Skua!" whilst another said "don't be daft." Fortunately I listened to the former and made my way closer.
This was pretty much what my initial view looked like.

Obviously a small dark skua I managed to get closer. The bird, a juv, sat there not doing much at all and it was at this point that it dawned on me that this was just as likely to be a Long-tailed as an Arctic.  The sudden panic in me brought on a feeling of nausea and turned my brain to mush whereupon any i.d features that I did know vacated the space between my ears.

Calls to Roy and Andy were greeted by answerphone messages and I settled on getting as many photos, albeit very shakey, as I could.  Fortunately Andy called me back and gave me a few pointers. At this point the Skua started preening revealing the lovely black and white barred undertail coverts of a Long-tailed Skua, I was, by now, 95% certain that that was what this was. Unfortunately for Andy and anyone else wanting to see it the aforementioned dog walker appeared at the waters edge with a bloody great stick. As he raised the stick the gulls on the shoreline got up and took the skua with them. As it drifted south out of site the sickening feeling came over me that I might have to let this one go, though thankfully I'd managed a handful of flight shots that fortunately helped clinch the identification.  Being the techno geek that I am I managed to transfer the shots to my tablet and post them on Twitter and await the response - and more importantly see if I'd cocked up or not. Thankfully Andy sent me a screenshot from the Collins guide which confirmed my suspicions and the rest just like the bird is history..

Note twat with dog and stick

It probably took me an hour or so to calm down after this and with the conditions still good I set about doing another circuit which sure enough paid off with Turnstone, Grey Plover and Whinchat and later Greenshank and a Little Egret.

Another truly spectacular patch day and a species that I never imagined seeing locally. Many thanks to Andy for his assistance at the other end of the phone.

A couple of Clouded Yellows whilst failing to find any scarce passerines.


mq said...

Excuse me Mr Pieman, but isn't it about time we saw a review of a pie or even a photo of one? Common Scoters are all well and good. Thanks.

(excellent find btw...)

Charnwood Ringing Group said...

Very clever title Mark. What a great bird, so pleased for you. I was out on my patch yesterday and although it felt 'rare' produced nothing better than a Hobby passing through. cheers Neil

Mark said...

I had one prepared before I wrote this. Don't worry it'll be up soon enough ;-)

Mark said...

Cheers Neil, felt rare this morning but very little movement. Good luck for the autumn :-)