Sunday, 24 February 2013

Mega Grebe!!! (23rd February)

Off to Somerset by train followed by a couple of hours on the bike and finally arriving at Ham Wall Marshes RSPB around midday.  The train trip wasn't too bad and despite having traveled this stretch of the coastline multiple times before, this was my first time during the daytime so it was great to be able to appreciate the impressive red sandstone cliffs (laid down in the Devonian Era) and masses of gulls.  More easily IDable from the train as it sped past the Teign River Estuary where a couple dozen Brent Geese as well as a large selection of waders.  Arriving at Bridgwater and taking the final leg of the journey to the marsh wasn't too bad either with my largest flock of Fieldfare yet this winter, found in the fields as I approached the reserve, numbering somewhere into the hundreds.  Finally, after almost half a days traveling, I arrived at the towpath where I was kindly stopped by one of the twitchers to take a brief glimpse through his scope at the GREAT WHITE EGRET before continuing the extra few hundred meters to the 2nd viewing platform where I finally connected with the PIED-BILLED GREBE!

Pied-billed Grebe, complete with stunning pied bill as it progresses into its summer plumage

Rather pleased that it had shown so easily I packed my stuff out, set up the scope and in the few minutes I was preparing myself it had decided to go swim behind some reeds before going to rest (only its nape and back visible).  It took some time for it to show its stunning pied bill again but the views improved progressively throughout the day and finally to top it all off, it came right up close performing excellently for the massive crowds of assembled twitchers (a slightly overexertion as at times it was only me stood there!).  There was still time to just about squeeze in a visit to the Steart stint but I felt the grebe deserved a little more attention so I ended up spending the better part of the day on the platform.  A little bit of variety when a nice male Bearded Tit came pinging through the reeds, providing rather good views followed by a second appearance of the Great White Egret as it made a wide circuit of the lake before coming into land.

Great White Egret

Rather unexpectedly, a hirundine species also flew through but instead of getting my bins on it for any ID I was too engrossed in watching the grebe, instead hoping it'd return later but sadly that wasn't the case.  I also trudged up and down the path a couple of times and had a nice brief view of a Barn Owl gliding across the reeds, followed with good views of a Kingfisher and 3 Lesser Redpolls feeding on the muddy margins of the channel alongside the footpath.

Lesser Redpolls

Other birds of note included 2 Marsh Harriers quartering the reedbed, a wisp of Snipe several Buzzards and on my return , small swathes of Starlings heading in the direction for the roost at the reserve.

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