27th June 2014 – Rare Breeding Birds tour

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Day 1 of a 2 day tour today. After days of sunny weather, it dawned overcast with light drizzle. Despite that, we still went to look for birds of prey this morning.

Our first stop produced a Barn Owl which flew right past along the road. The resident Turtle Doves had obviously been keeping out of the rain – we quickly found one though it was perched low down and partly obscured – but as the weather brightened a little a second bird up and sat out in full view, such a beautiful bird. We were also graced with several Marsh Harriers, including a smart male which quartered back and forth across the field in front of us. We travelled on to a second site and managed to add a variety of raptors to the day’s list. Amongst others, a nice Hobby which circled up with a flock of Swifts careful to keep above it!

The afternoon was spent looking for Spoonbills. We walked out at Burnham Overy and were quickly graced with a single bird flying past towards the saltmarsh. As we got onto the seawall, a second adult was feeding on one of the pools, which allowed us all to get great scope views. Whilst we were there, a Little Tern was also feeding over the same patch of water and a family of Little Grebes, with 3 very small stripy-faced juveniles, was on a small pool amongst the reeds by the path. A little further, and a Dark Green Fritillary was on the path on the edge of the dunes. We walked on to the pines and up to the hide where the ‘creche’ held at least 9 juvenile Spoonbills. Several adults dropped in while we were there, the young birds still chasing and harrying them for food as soon as they arrived. As we were in the hide, the thunder clouds started to gather, so we made a dash back to the car – although we got caught in the rain, thankfully it was not as bad as it might have been.

A quick stop on the way back produced several Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls and good views of Little and Common Terns. As on previous days, a single Arctic Tern was also to be found, feeding back and forth and hovering over the creeks behind the other gulls & terns.

The evening was scheduled for Nightjars, and although the weather forecast looked touch-and-go, we decided to try anyway. For a while it looked like the wrong call, as a thunderstorm and torrential rain hit – we sheltered in the car and thought we might not get out at all. At around 9.30pm the rain stopped and despite the rainwater still flowing down the path in a torrent, we trudged out onto the heath with pretty low expectations. Almost immediately, a distant roding Woodcock appeared, followed by another much closer. Over the next quarter of an hour, we had several flypasts. Then the Nightjars started churring, unperturbed by the cool, damp, overcast conditions, and we eventually had two or three separate males. One in particular sat up nicely on several of its favourite branches, so we could get it silhouetted nicely against the sky in the scope. It then flew right towards us, turning at the last minute and dropping into the gorse right in front of us, flushing out a female. They flew round together for a second before the male dropped down onto a branch , sitting up for a second before flying off over the heath. A stunning way to end the day!

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