Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Grouse Misconduct & Godwit Gallivant.

Sat 25th April - 01.30am, alarm goes off. 02.00am emerge from pit. 02.50am arrive at Sharpy's. 03.00am pick Dave up in Bedmond and head for the M1. The plan being to arrive at Worlds End in North Wales soon after day break to witness the spectacle of lekking Black Grouse. We arrived at the track that would lead us to the moor in good time and decided to pull over and get our optics out of the boot, so if the Black Grouse were lekking anywhere close to the track, we could view from the car without disturbing them. A small stream was trickling past where we stopped so more out of hope than expectation we checked for Dipper and immediately found one feeding directly in front of us. Good start. As we drove up through the woods we had windows open to listen for singing migrants. A call of "Pied Flycatcher" from Dave had Sharpy hitting the brakes. The bird continued to sing but seemed to be out of view behind a Farm House. It was important to get to the moor before the Black Grouse's early morning testosterone fueled cabaret was over, then we'd be free to bird the area at a leisurely pace, so we pressed on. As we rounded a sharp bend close to the moor, Dave's owl-like hearing picked out another Pied Fly amidst the dawn chorus. This one was closer but still not immediately obvious to the eye so another one to check out later. Suddenly the woodland ended abruptly and the moor opened up in front of us. A few hundred yards in and there they were. 29 male Black Grouse, tails fanned and wattles blood red in the early morning light as they posed and postured like models on the catwalk.

Sporadic outbreaks of violence seemed to be more bluster than menace with no actual wounds to lick.

Then, as if a referee had blown the final whistle, hostilities and performances ceased and they all flew off together.

Isn't nature brilliant!!!

 A wander further up the moor brought a pair of Whinchat, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler (heard only) a couple of Wheatear and a pair of Red Grouse.

Back in the car and looking for a spot for a 3 point turn to head back for the Pied Flys when the day took an unexpected twist. Dave's pager started 'Mega Alerting' with the news of a Hudsonian Godwit at Ashcott. A debate that lasted several seconds ensued and we were Somerset bound. 3.5 hours later we were soaking up a life tick all round. In amongst a flock of Black Tailed Godwits was a noticeably darker bird blissfully sleeping. Eureka!!!

As the assembly of several hundred birders waited for it to rouse from it's slumber we were kept entertained by the native avian fauna of this outstanding RSPB reserve. 2 common cranes were cruising high overhead.

A Wood Sandpiper and a Greenshank were probing the mud.

Wood Sandpiper


A Great White Egret flew across and a bittern took flight to relocate itself in the reed bed. A male Marsh Harrier was skydancing for his intended and my first hobby of the year drifted over us. 

Eventually the Hudsonian Godwit was bothered into waking by preening Black Tails inadvertently prodding it with their lengthy bills. It reluctantly had a stretch and wandered several meters to a more peaceful spot and duly went straight back to sleep.  I suppose a Trans-Atlantic flight under your own steam is quite a good excuse for being tired.

There was still yet another treat in store as a singing Wood Warbler occasionally revealed itself near the car park.

 I arrived home still buzzing 16 hours and 584 miles later. Hats off to Sharpy for a marathon driving session despite the distraction of an ear infection.

What a memorable day!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment