Danny gathering birds in May

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Despite planning to do some serious birding at the end of last months’ birding blog , May birding was again largely restricted to survey work with the occasional ‘twitch’ thrown in for good measure.  The progression of spring brought in the last few summer migrants including four turtle doves while surveying at Ely. Following the survey and with a couple of hours to kill before a meeting in the city centre I popped across to Wicken Fen nature reserve, a site I’d never been to before.  The previous evening two pectoral sandpipers had been spotted along with a black-winged stilt, both rare and unusual vagrant species.  Unfortunately the pectoral sandpipers were not seen again, but the black-winged stilt did remain for a few days and was a nice bird to add to the year list.  In addition there was a single spoonbill on one of the scrapes at Wicken Fen so I added another year tick for the day.

Later the same week I added hobby to the list, seen from the car as I drove along the A14 in Cambridgeshire.  Despite only seeing it from a moving car, hobbys are unmistakable; pocket sized hawks with swept back boomerang wings and it wasn’t to be the last of the species I would see that week.

A visit to Lakenheath RSPB one evening that week produced one of the best bird spectacles I think I’ve ever witnessed, an adult male red-footed falcon:

The falcon had been present at the reserve for about two weeks and was showing really well, flying about 20-30 foot above the reed bed where a few photographers and I had gathered.  It was a stunning bird….  What made it all the more special were the 8-10 hobbies also hunting in the same area, chasing the myriad of swallows, sandmartins and swifts feeding over the marsh.  All this and an occasion bittern flying over the reed bed made it a really special evening.  Feeling lucky I dragged myself away from Lakenheath and went to nearby Weeting Heath, a dedicated nature reserve for breeding stone curlew.  After a brief wait a single bird appeared for a short while before returning to its nest out of sight of the bird hide.   Finally I raced towards East Wretham Heath about half an hour drive away but in the direction of home.  The heath is a good site for breeding tree pipit and redstart and a singing wood warbler had been present for a few weeks.  Unfortunately I arrived just as the sky opened up and began raining heavily.  I waited around, sheltering in a nearby bird hide but in fading light I left defeated yet buoyant from the evenings’ birding exploits.

Sadly no more year ticks came my way and I ended the month on 159 species; firmly in last place but confident that I had added at least two species this month that my competition would be unlikely to see this year….

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