Sunday 6 February 2022

Two days in the West

How better to deal with winter blues than to spend a couple of days away in the Westcountry watching birds? I went with Magnus Andersson, @Magnusphotog. 

Our main target was the very rare Baikal Teal, a vagrant from East Asia which was at Greylake RSPB, in Somerset. Arriving at lunchtime, we met several people who had been there since 9.30 and not seen it. We searched for 90 minutes without locating it. As we were leaving, we passed a gate and Magnus suggested one more scan. He found the teal sitting under a bush. Fantastic! It was misty and the light was awful, so forgive the poor photo.

Baikal Teal - a rare vagrant duck from East Asia. Perhaps from Lake Baikal!

According to (my) tradition, seeing a lifer (a bird you have never seen before) warrants a celebratory Tunnock's caramel wafer! Said reward was duly consumed.

Next up were all three types of egret - Great White Egret, Little Egret and Cattle Egret. 

Cattle Egret, left and Little Egret, right. Note, the Little has a thin black bill, whereas the Cattle Egret has a fatter, yellow bill.

Great White Egret. Much larger than the other two, with a longer neck, longer legs and a huge dagger-like bill. It was too close to get all of him in!

We then looked for a Tundra Bean Goose. We eventually found it with a flock of Canada Geese. 

Our last target of the day was the long-staying Penduline Tit at Weston-Super-Mare. We arrived 10 minutes too late and they had gone to roost. However we did see a wonderful starling murmuration at dusk, at which point it was getting dark so we headed for the Travelodge.

We had planned to go to WWT Slimbridge early the next morning but the frost and mist was persistent. We did find some Russian White-fronted Geese outside, before deciding to go first to a reservoir near Port Talbot to see the long-staying Pacific Diver!

(Russian) White-fronted Goose. Looks something like a Greylag, but note the white rim surrounding the bill and the dark stripes on the Belly.

At the Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (don't ask me how to say that!) near Port Talbot, we managed to get onto the Pacific Diver. It looks a bit plain because it's not in breeding plumage, but it still looked majestic with its large bill and easy way of diving. 

Pacific Diver

We also saw a Slavonian Grebe, which was too distant to photograph, and some lovely Goldeneye in flight and displaying. I hadn't realised that the females had an orange tip to the bill until I started doing the photos.

Male Goldeneye. 

The male Goldeneye displays by throwing its head back over it's body. This male is displaying next to two Tufted Ducks!

A 'fly by' of two female Goldeneye. A beautiful sight.

After walking round the reservoir and meeting on the way Rob Jones, @GlamBirder, the original finder of the diver, we headed back to Slimbridge. We arrived late, leaving us little time to go round. However, we did manage to see the Bewick's Swans. The locally reared Cranes, the Snow Geese and the Ross's Goose we saw were all of questionable provenance. I put them on my list but some purists might not!

We decided to stay another night and set off towards the Travelodge.

The final day was very windy and cold. We didn't bother with the Penduline Tits, as we didn't think they would come out in such weather. We dipped (birdwatcher-speak meaning 'missed') the Kentish Plover at Burham-on-sea and the long-staying Ring Ouzel, but we did catch up with the Glossy Ibis at Catcott Lows Nature Reserve and then the Whooper Swans at Curry Moor. The photos are not good enough to show here (I have my standards!).

To end, here are some distant shots of the Common Cranes at Slimbridge WWT.

Common Cranes. These are very tall birds, much bigger than a Grey Heron!

In the main, we had a very enjoyable break.

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