Sunday, 26 April 2015

Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset... just!

This hobby is meant to be pleasurable, a distraction from the stresses and strains of everyday life apparently. It isn't. Yesterday, for example was a case in point. Karen was away for the day, and had left me in charge of doing two very important things - it was our final chance to pick up the wedding banns from the church while at the same time, a boiler was being fitted and some strength was needed to transport the old one out. To cap it all off, I needed to be in Woking for the evening to help transport some bits and bobs back into London. I normally don't have commitments, let alone three in one day.

So I really didn't appreciate the call from Bob W (first time I've seen RBA broadcasting news well in advance of BirdGuides, since I relinquished my pager a year or two ago), informing me of a Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset. An easy twitch in normal circumstances with no water to cross. Anyway, I was well and truly screwed as those wedding banns just had to be picked up; there really wasn't an option. So that was fine, I'd be off just after 10am. Or perhaps not, what with the church being a bit laissez faire with their punctuality combined with the old boiler not being as easy to extricate as originally thought. I ended up leaving southeast London at 12.15pm. Sub-optimal, and a Common Sandpiper on Greenland Dock - a decent bird for the patch - did its best to cheer me up.

Fortunately, traffic was very average as I headed through London town and once on the M4, it's remarkable how close you can make Bristol with a bit of downward force on the right hand pedal. And so it was that I arrived at Meare Heath at 3.25pm - probably Britain's most impressive reedbed reserve these days? It felt totally continental, whether that be Med style or Danube style I'm not sure. What's for certain is that, as well as the hoped for yank, I saw 3 Cranes, 3 Great White Egrets, a Spoonbill, a handful of Bittern sightings and a Wood Sandpiper - all in the space of a couple of hours.

And yes, Britain's third Hudsonian Godwit and the first since I've been out of nappies was gladly received. I was mega excited this time last year when I saw the species for the first time in Texas, so to unblock this golden oldie in Britain was pretty special - it's not the firsts you dream of, it's birds like Hudwits that really get you going. Not the brightest of individuals and presumably a female, I watched it at mid distance for just over half an hour as it fed at the back of the pool enjoying its intricately patterned upperparts and undertail coverts, as well as its nice black underwing coverts.

With the weather and light poor, I was just waiting to get my camera out on it... as surely it was going to stick about for the rest of the day. But at 4.10pm it suddenly decided to depart with a handful of Black-tailed Godwits. They banked around, looking to land before returning a short while later. But pretty quickly, the Hudsonian Godwit was off again and headed fast west into the distance. And hasn't been seen again as yet. Good views of the underwing I guess, but I was left cold on the pictures front.

I guess that with good views and no photos, I'm still a birder at heart. That's quite satisfying really. Two British Isles ticks in eight days - that's one more than I got the whole of last year. And a new Western Palearctic bird to boot; can't be bad! And with all chores done (including getting back to Woking for 8pm), and the bird seen, all turned out well. If not slightly stressful.

A Lesser Whitethroat in Russia Dock Woodland was today's highlight among marathon fever here in Rotherhithe, as well my first ringed Herring Gull here in just under a month.
1st-winter Herring Gull M7MT Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe 26th April 2015 - ringed at Pitsea, Essex in March 2015

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