Thursday, October 17, 2019

The reality of Lincolnshire coastal bird finding

The reality of Lincs coastal birding in autumn:

October 14th: With light south-east winds forecast overnight and into Monday the 14th the three amigos gathered at Stonebridge car park at 07:30 on the 14th for an assault on the tried and tested patch to Pye’s Hall, now sadly in terminal decline due to the EA realignment scheme. Signs on approach at 07:25 were not great, no thrushes jumping off the road by the car park but it was early days. The amble down to Pye’s produced flocks of the now ubiquitous Little Egrets

a couple of fly over Lapland Buntings, becoming a scarce bird of late, the stunning male Black Brant allowing identification from 800m with bins, 

at least 6 Greenshank and a bit of a raptor fest with Merlin, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk enhanced by two Common Buzzards and a juvenile Marsh Harrier engaging in a battle with two Peregrines over some prey item on the foreshore, the truly bulky and pale female Peregrine perched up in the dead trees at Pyes 

but it was the sight of a flock of 24 Long-tailed Tits irrupting upwards as they attempted to cross the new breach before chickening out several times that was a minor highlight. 

And that was almost it, a few Song Thrushes and Redwings departed inland and by lunch time cloud was already increasingly dark from the west. A walk to a small copse revealed a couple of Chiffchaffs, one producing the duuee call interspersed with its huueets but it looked very normal and eventually a Yellow-browed Warbler called and showed fairly well. Three Stonechats completed a rather disappointing showing and with rain increasingly heavy by 15:00 it was time for an early tea and pack up ready for the big day that the easterly and rain overnight must produce! 

October 15th and the 07:30 arrival at Stonebridge is met with several flocks of Redwings and Song Thrushes tumbling from the sky – maybe it will be a fall day! The first walk to Pye’s is a bit less than inspiring but flocks of thrushes including a few Fieldfares continue to drop in or push on westwards. The first Woodcock of the autumn flushes from the dunes and is followed later by two more. Common Snipe are flying inland rasping but maybe they are just being forced off the saltmarsh by the high spring tide? The Black Brant is showing itself as usual amongst an increased flock of 5-600 Dark-bellied Brents and a Lapland Bunting flies by calling. A Short-eared Owl in the dunes and up to five Chiffchaffs and odd Goldcrests are a precursor to arrival at Pye’s where two bedraggled Siskins are hopping about on the path along with a Brambling and others are wheezing overhead. 

A Merlin is hunting the foreshore but there is still a lack of really big birds! After a trek around the elders and the outlying bushes and spits the Goldcrest tally is rising with birds seemingly coming in while further thrush flocks are still overhead. More Bramblings and Chiffchaffs materialise and then while I’m checking for a japonicus Buff-bellied Pipit amongst the flocks of Rock Pipits ND and CA pick us a first-winter Barred Warbler showing well typically the other side of the bushes to where I am, a recurring theme. It shows well for a few minutes before disappearing into the elders and buckthorn. 

It is getting on for lunch time and after a slow walk back to the car park picking up 4 Stonechats but little else new there is an obvious increase in the intensity of the thrush arrivals with the whoosh of wings becoming more regular as several flocks of 100 – 200 birds dive down from the low cloud and in the next 90 minutes over 2500 birds arrive mainly Redwings

A search of the bushes around the car park and the grass fields and realignment produces a juvenile Ring Ouzel and more Fieldfares, and Chiffchaffs plus a Whinchat and a Yellow-browed Warbler a different bird to the 14th

We set off for a second crack at Pye’s but most of the early migrants seem to have cleared out and the only additions are another Short-eared Owl

a second Ring Ouzel, two Whimbrel flying south-east and a Green Sandpiper.  Back at the car park RH and LH pick up a Lesser Whitethroat that attracts attention and morphs into a clear-cut Siberian Lesser Whitethroat S C Blythi a dead ringer for the first I saw coincidentally at Pye’s Hall on October 21st 1988 photographed in black and white by the late Keith Atkin. 

By 15:00 with thick low cloud it is already very dark but we continue digging through to 18:10 but nothing else of significance is turned up. At the day’s end conservative totals of 3000 Redwing, 150 Song Thrush, 30 Fieldfare, 40 Goldcrest, 50 Robins, 5 Siskin, 30 Brambling, 10 Blackcap, 10 Chiffchaffs, Yellow-browed Warbler, Barred Warbler, 2+ Short-eared Owl, 5 Stonechat, 1 Whinchat, Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, Black Brant and two Whimbrel make for a good day but not a great day.