Sunday, July 17, 2005

Invasion of the larus sp: melanocephalus and flying Carrots!

Proper long haul twitches for the Wandering Birders seem to have been a rare event this year (some might say 'as rare as bird's teeth'), with most of our twitching taking place in our native East Anglia. Both of us are very much reliant on the ever generous lifts from our parents and local birding pals so getting to see some of the 'big ones' can be quite challenging.

The recent Sooty Tern was very tempting with the Wandering Birders planning a trip to Anglesey for some weeks already, but alas we didn't succumb for this mega rarity. As the old adage goes 'one good Tern deserves another' and a report of a presumed Lesser-crested Tern at Cromer on Saturday 16th morning seemed far more obtainable than the other ultra rare Tern that others had ticked off during last weekend.

However, the Tern had flown off in the early hours and couldn't be relocated, so Will headed off to work in the hope the bird would be relocated the following day, and Josh headed for a year tick in the form of a yank- Pectoral Sandpiper- a scarce and regular visitor to Norfolk and the UK in general.
Pectoral Sandpiper, Welney, Norfolk, 16.07.05 © Josh Jones

Few waders are as confiding as Yanks, but this one seemed to be the exception that proves the rule as it hung at the back of the scrape in front of the main hide. This was Josh's 6th Pec Sand in the UK (all in the last 3 years) and he did well to get these excellent shots of this ace adult.


Pectoral Sandpiper, Welney, Norfolk, 16.07.05 © Josh Jones

More photos of this bird by Josh can be found here.

After adding Pec Sand to his ever growing year list, Josh headed towards North Norfolk to try his luck at relocating the orange billed Tern. Arnold's Marsh at Cley NWT is a well known top spot for rare Terns and it seemed likely that the bird could turn up there; alas it didn't, although an hour after Josh left the site, the Tern did fly along the coast, towards Blakeney Point from the east! Josh found a single Little Stint in with the 200 odd Dunlin and Med G
ull at Salthouse- this species seems to be doing extremely well this year with birds at particularly every site along the East Anglican coast!

Saturday night saw Josh and Will make plans with Will's Dad, Ray, to head for Cromer and sit it out until the bird flies over the pier. An early start wouldn't be necessary as we needed to make sure the bird would still be present.

A lousy night's sleep was soon broken for Will with a phone call at 6.40am from Bedfordshire's bright young thing and ace bird finder, David Roche, who called to alert him that the Marsh Sandpiper briefly reported in the wee small hours the previous
morning at Minsmere RSPB in Surffolk was back! A quick text to Josh saw that he too was awake and plans were quickly made for the potential of a double twitch, depending on the Tern.

The flying Carrot was reported at Cley and Cromer at something past silly-a-clock and by 9.15am we were on our way to Cromer. The traffic was awful and very slow approaching Kings Lynn and Cromer we had to take several detours to avoid being sat in a hot car going no where fast. A call from John Furse told us the Tern's day hang out place had been located and the bird was at Waxham sitting pretty on sea defences!

Sunday drivers are surely one of the most annoying breeds
of driver to encounter on an urgent twitch where speed is of the essence?! Today was no different and the combination of slow drivers and long thin Norfolk roads meant that full pace could not get us the tick and we would have to hope it would wait for our slow arrival. We only just managed to park near the bird and late comers had to park on the main road (if you can call it that) making it a long walk for the prize on offer.

Our arrival coincided with John's and we ran to the beach, where we could see the gather twitchers and more importantly the rocks offshore that the Tern was on! Insurance ticked from some distance we headed to where the beach was closest to offshore rocks (still some 450 yards away!). The Lesser-crested Tern was sat among the Com
mon and Sandwich Terns and showed superbly for it's admirers, occasionally taking flight when disturbed by idiots on fast things on the sea.Lesser-crested Tern, Waxham, Norfolk, 17.07.05 © Josh Jones
Lesser-crested Tern, Waxham, Norfolk, 17.07.05 © Will Bowell

Too distant for DSLR, Josh kindly allowed Will to use hi
s digiscoping set up and they both got some pleasing result considering the heat haze and distance. Will also managed some poor records of it in flight to prove that it has a grey rump (as oppose to white i.e. Elegant Tern). Most if not all those present were now convinced the bird was indeed a Lesser-crested Tern and soon reports missing out the 'presumed' were coming from pagers and mobiles.

Lesser-crested Tern, Waxham, Norfolk, 17.07.05 © Will Bowell

More photos by the wandering birders of this bird can be found here.

This bird was extra special for the Wandering Birders, especially Josh as it meant he had reached the hallowed 300 mark on his UK list at the age of 15 years old! And what a special bird to reach it with- only the 9th Lesser crested Carrot ever to reach our shores and not only that, one that was proving tricky to catch up with! It is a very impressive achievement to reach 300 at 15 years old- here's to 400 by 18!

Also on the sea defences offshore were a Whimbrel and two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls. Yet more evidence of the strong increase of Med Gulls along this year came when (after some persuasion from John- thanks!), Ray drove the Wandering Birders towards Minsmere and going through Great Yarmouth we had a superb adult low over the A12!

Minsmere was packed out and apparently 15 minutes prior our arrival the flippin' Marsh Sand had flown off towards West Scrape. After walking all the way round the reserve to West Scrape we were about to call it a day when a Bittern flew up. During the chaos of everyone trying to get on the Bittern, David phoned Will with news that the Marsh Sand was back viewable from the public hide.

The West Hide emptied pretty quick and brief but excellent scope views of another lifer from the Public Hide were supplemented by brief views from East Hide. Another lifer for both the Wandering Birders and a cracking way to finish a fabulous day!

Thanks as ever to Ray for driving after a week that saw him cover South Africa and Spain! Also thanks to John and David for the constant flow of gen! Much appreciated as ever!

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