More Quality Birding – 3/vii/15

My Dad and I had been planning a trip up north for a while, to see the breeding Montagu’s Harrier at Blacktoft Sands RSPB, and the recent increase sightings encouraged us to act quickly. We left early, and after a few hours in the car we arrived on site. Almost immediately, on entering the hide, we had views of the male bird circling high to the north and then drifting away to the north-east. We settled in and after an hour or so, the female put in an appearance, though it was distant and there was a lot of heat haze. It showed with relative regularity for the next few hours, and on several occasions it chased away one of the local Marsh Harriers. They were remarkably elegant birds, due to a combination of the long narrow wings and tail, and the easy gliding flight on deeply v-shaped wings, and were really good to watch! Both birds later showed quite a lot better from the Singleton Hide, allowing for a few record and ‘habitat’ shots…

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We also visited the Xerox hide, where there were plenty of waders. The most numerous species was Spotted Redshank, with a remarkable total of 17 moulting adults. There were also four Ruff (3 males and a female) all in the early stages of their moult, a single Green Sandpiper (with five others visible from the Townend Hide), a single Greenshank, four Avocet and a couple of Redshank.

P1260419 Ced P1260380 CedP1260425 CedThere was also an abundance of Tree Sparrows around the car park, which allowed for some nice photo opportunities just before we left the reserve at around five.

P1260337 CedP1260342 CedFrom here, the plan was to pay a brief visit to the Melodious Warbler near Birmingham, but a quick check of Birdguides put paid to that, as a summer plumage White-Winged Black Tern had been found at Middleton Lakes RSPB – almost directly on our route home. We arrived a couple of hours later, and after a twenty minute walk, we reached the jubilee wetlands. After a few tense minutes of searching we located the bird.

It showed brilliantly in the fading light, approximately 20 metres away and feeding actively over the water. It was remarkably agile and was often chased by the local Black-Headed Gulls, but evaded them with little difficulty. The birds plumage was almost immaculate, with only a few white patches on the face and underwing coverts. Some of the flight feathers appeared to be juvenile feathers, indicating that this bird was in its 2nd calendar year (its first summer plumage). I managed a couple of record shots, but spent most of the time just enjoying the bird. These were the best that I managed…

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Unfortunately we were forced to leave after only 20 minutes or so by the lack of light and concerns over the car park closing time, but it had been a fantastic bonus bird for the day, and one which I have wanted to see for a long time! It finished off a cracker of a day!

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