Friday 23 October 2020

Friday 23rd October

From dawn it was evident that birds were simultaneously on the move overhead, at sea and in the estuary, so with only two observers present, the site was under-resourced today. Nevertheless, an impressive 88 species were recorded and a nearly comprehensive set of representative or indicative counts of waterbirds and seabirds were achieved. At sea, a cloud of gulls contained c.630 Black-headed Gull, 52 Common Gull, five Kittiwake, two Sandwich Tern and only modest numbers of Herring Gull. A steady passage of 100+ auks flew SSW that involved more Guillemot than Razorbill based on the small sample close enough to identify; also 40+ Gannet, five Common Scoter, two Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and the winter's first Goldeneye (imm/♀); the earliest since 2010. Two very distant skua sp. were most likely Arctic Skua. Presumption that all late autumn small skua sp. are invariably Pomarine is incorrect since passage of both species extends into early-Nov. Also, although the balance of likelihood favours Pomarine from November onwards, this is not exclusively so, and exceptionally Arctic have occurred after the New Year; see chart.

data analysis and chart - Ivan Lakin

Mudflats edges and The Bight were inundated  quite a while before the late morning tide that was also higher than predicted, perhaps due to recent heavy rains on Exmoor and across the wider watershed. Counts were 1,458 Wigeon, "high hundreds" Oystercatcher, 477 Teal, 317 Redshank, 186 Canada Goose and 116 Dunlin.  One with a yellow-flag 'CP5' (right tibia) and a plain orange (left tibia) was seen here on 1st Oct, just nine days after it was ringed as a juv at
Ynyslas, Borth, Ceredigion. Structurally, this was a schinzii 'Western' Dunlin, so likely a migrant; and clearly smaller, shorter-billed and short-legged than the swelling number of alpina 'Scandinavian' Dunlin it was with that will winter here.    

A surprise influx of 33 Ringed Plover that included a metal-ringed German-ringed bird seen here before and a new, 1cy Norwegian-ringed bird that sported a yellow-flag 'XTX' on its left tibia and a small plain red ring on its right. A number of Ringed Plover seen here originate from southwest Norway coast.

Continuing with the counts, there were just 84 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 45+ Grey Plover, 23 Mute Swan, 22 Cormorant, 18 Great Black-backed Gull, 17 Shelduck, nine Greenshank, eight Pale-bellied Brent Goose that included a single family of seven birds; also three 'red-head' Red-breasted Merganser, three juv Little Stint - the latest autumn record since 2006, two Grey Heron, two Little Egret, two Common Snipe, two Great Crested Grebe plus another offshore, two Lesser Black-backed Gull, two Shag plus a few offshore, the drake Eider on Finger Point; a Kingfisher and the Slavonian Grebe.

A Cattle Egret dropped into the estuary corner. At the same time in a role reversal, a number of Little Egret moseyed around cattle grazing in Easton Fields. At least one of the six plus Rock Pipit in the Spartina and The Bight tideline had features that supported Scandinavian Rock Pipit, but did not call.

A large flock of corvids again assembled around The Bight and unusually with them two Rook and two Jackdaw; more typical were single figures of possibly passage birds. Early morning passerine passage was light with only single figures of Chaffinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Skylark and Pied Wagtail. A juv Yellow Wagtail that ditched at the feet of the ponies was the latest here since 1987. By its appearance and call, it was just an ordinary flavissima. A Short-eared Owl was high over the estuary mid-morning.

As usual, the drake Shoveler was on the Main Pond, as were 14 Mallard (pre-dawn only), six Moorhen and two Water Rail. [The last confirmed sighting of a Coot here was 6 years and 2 months ago].

Other notables were a Peregrine, two Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and a Raven. As the breeze got up and moved to a southwesterly direction, smoke that billowed from the reserve demonstrably caused an evacuation of birds from the Greenland Lake area with 80+ Goldfinch, 20+ Greenfinch and single-figures of Stonechat and Cirl Bunting along Warren Neck, where at 750 metres away the air was still smoky but bearable.

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