Thursday, 18 April 2013

Alpine Swift - at Lade!

Lade - 0900hrs - mild, sunny, sw 6 - Having spent the early shift entertaining our 2 year old grandson (including `emptying` another barren moth trap) it was with some trepidation that I trudged out across the storm beaches with Barney and into the buffeting south-westerly wind to do a round of the local patch. First stop the gorse at the south end to search for yesterdays Rouzel, but without success. A Whitethroat broke cover further along the track, plus 6 Linnets and a couple of Blackbirds. On the open water there wasn't a bird to be seen due to the near gale force winds, although a steady movement of calling Med Gulls moved over Lade and down the coastline throughout the morning. It was turgid stuff working along the willow scrub; a Chiffchaff here and a Sedge Warbler there, 2 calling Cetti`s, a trilling Dabchick and 2 Marsh Harriers over the reedbed. North pit was devoid of wildfowl apart from a few diving ducks and grebes.
As we retraced our tracks back across the causeway I could scarcely believe my eyes as 30 feet above me was an Alpine Swift! Initially all I saw was a large grey-brown swift, until it `rolled` revealing a white belly and throat patch; on closer inspection it was much larger and with a more ponderous flight action than an adjacent Swift. Having confirmed the id next job was to get the news out and its wasn't long before the local bird hounds began to arrive, by which time it had settled into a pattern of feeding over the adjacent caravan park and the ponds, along with 3 Common Swifts and at times all 3 species of hirundines. I managed a few record shots with my cheapo camera but for the real deal check out Plodding Birders blog or the DBO website
1500hrs - Couldn`t resist seconds on the swift which performed a real treat all afternoon over the caravan park and from the east side of Lade pits adjacent to the willows, and was still present when I left site just after 1700hrs. Even on such a windy day the ponds between the pits and the camp bund are a sun trap and as a result thousands of emerging insects were probably wafted up into the airspace over the camp which kept the swifts and hirundines interested; indeed, you could see their swollen crops bulging with food.
Incredibly DW called to say he and GH had seen a Serin on the grass amongst the caravans near the site entrance. By the time I arrived we heard the distinctive trilling call and I watched a tiny, bouncy finch fly away which may well have been the bird.
That makes 3 more Marsh year ticks today bringing the revised total to 165 species.
Its every patch workers dream to find such a gem as an Alpine Swift (even if it was most likely yesterdays bird seen briefly over the reserve) which I guess is what drives us on, as you just never know....

                                Alpine Swift, Lade Gravel Pits

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