Friday, 6 April 2018

Herons and a Hoopoe!

Dungeness - 0640-0840hrs - cold, sunny, SE 3 - Joined a packed seawatch hide first thing for a decent passage of mainly wildfowl. Common Scoters streamed by throughout the watch along with small flocks of Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, two Gadwall, a Merganser and one flock of Brent Geese. Auks (one flock of nine Razorbill), Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Little Gull and Sandwich Tern trickled through in variable numbers along with several pulses of Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls. A brown Merlin came in and a black Crow went out to complete an entertaining start to the day.
Lade - After breakfast a check of the local patch revealed the two Long-tailed Ducks behaving erratically, chasing one another around and flying out over the wall mirror and back onto the water, Perhaps they were getting ready to go...
  A late afternoon wander across the Desert delivered Wheatear, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, plus a Yellow Wagtail hurrying north.

                                Prime Hoopoe habitat!

Midley - I wasn't expecting yesterdays Hoopoe to have stayed around the drying barns, but on the drive out was flagged down by an unknown birder (thanks whoever you were!) who`d just relocated said exotic on a farm track opposite the model flying club. Over the next hour we were treated to superb views of this classic overshooting migrant from the south as it probed away at the soggy turf pulling out invertebrates like a good `un. Even though it was a couple of hundreds yards down the track, through the scope and with the sun on our backs, it put on a fine performance, even raising its crest a couple of times!
  I`ve been lucky enough to have seen plenty of Hoopoes down the years, at home and mostly abroad, but it is such an iconic bird that you never forget your first one - and mine was on Cup Final day 1972! It was just before I joined the Navy and my best mate Kevin Downer called round (we didn't have a phone at home `til 75) to say he`d had a call from our pal Graham Clarke (aka Mutley) telling of a Hoopoe at Hilfield Park Reservoir, Watford.
  So, off we went, on the 321 Greenline from Maple Cross arriving at the Dome roundabout an hour later. A quick yomp down the A41 brought us to the Colne Valley Water Company reservoir boundary, complete with a ten foot high fence topped with three strands of barbed wire, and Mutley contemplating the climb...
  Anyhow, I wedged my old brass draw-tube Barr and Stroud through the chain link fence and spotted Tim Lawrence (a renowned London birder of the time) laying prone on the ground inside the site watching the Hoopoe probing the turf 20 yards away. So, over we went, or rather Kevin and I did, as Mutley got impaled on the barbed wire and proceeded to howl like a monkey! We thought this was hilarious (we were only 16 years old, don't forget) and were both doubled up with laughter as Mutley eventually extracted himself from the wire leaving half of his parka flapping atop the fence.
  We then joined Tim and enjoyed cracking close views of the exotic. None of us had cameras, but we all scribbled and sketch away in our note books, as was the order of the day back then. We left the site via a hole in the fence that Tim had found, much to Mutley`s disgust!
  And we made it back home for the match - Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 - Sniffer Clarke getting the winner and Mick Jones dislocating his shoulder near the end. Happy days indeed.
The Grange, Lydd - Paid my second visit of the season to count the heronry in the grounds of the Grange. After chatting to the owners a tour of the site confirmed my suspicions that the number of nests was much lower this year, although by how many I cannot exactly tell until next months Heron Watch from the church tower. This will enable me to look down into the dense crowns of the holm oaks which support the majority of nests.

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