Monday, 30 June 2014

Eagley awaiting my Tern

This weekend was pretty manic! It's a long blog post but worth it!

I finished work on Friday and picked up Dave, Rodney and Albert and we drove through the night down to Ashdown Forest, East Sussex in hope of connecting with the Short-toed Eagle which has been around for a couple of weeks. We arrived at 3 am after going through the night. Got to the Gills Lap car park and were greeted by the sound of churring Nightjars! We grabbed a couple of hours sleep in the car and awoke at 5.30 to see what we could find.

Turtle Doves were the highlight for the next few hours with at least 6 birds being seen and heard. Lots of other nice birds around the car park but no sign of the Eagle by 8 am (not necessarily a surprise given the time of the day - but we wanted to try early having seen the weather forecast for later in the day!). As the number of birders increased it started to rain, I think between 8-10 am (I slept so not sure!). After it cleared up a bit things looked a bit more promising.

Shortly later someone got a call that the Short-toed Eagle was in the Long car park area near Wych Cross so everyone raced (at a suitably legal speed..) over there. A quick walk got us to the spot but there was no sign of the bird at first. After an anxious 20 minutes or so someone on a track higher up found the Eagle, a quick run and I had got my scope onto it.

Had excellent views for the next hour or so of it perched busily preening at about 400 m range. I got a rubbish record shot on my phone (below). After really enjoying seeing this bird we decided to commence our drive north, as we were almost back to the car park we noticed that the Eagle was flying off, presumably back to the Gills Lap car park area so we got some brief flight views.

At this point we need to sound the fanfare, set off some fireworks etc as Short-toed Eagle was Rodneys 200th UK species. Congratulations Rodders old boy.

Pretty rubbish record shot of the UKs 5th (if you include Jersey and Guernsey), but first twitchable mainland record, of Short-toed Eagle (iPhone-scoped at about 400 m range)

We got back home fairly late on Saturaday night, grabbed a takeaway, watched the world cup, had some celebratory wine then headed up early Sunday morning to Seahouses, Northumberland to get the first boat across to the Inner Farnes on Sunday morning....

It looked a bit rough on the sea between Seahouses and the Farne Islands but that didn't put me or the old sea dog off and we enjoyed a full English (at Trotters cafe!) in preparation for a rough ride. There was a lot of salty water splashed about but luckily we positioned ourselves to avoid the most of it. After a few hours of bobbing around on the water in the cold wind, and occasional rain shower we finally saw the target bird - an impressive adult Bridled Tern. However after a few minutes it flew off and out of sight!

We decided to head back to the island and spend a couple of hours on dry land during the afternoon hoping for better views of the Bridled Tern (and better weather), and to also enjoy the many other seagulls on the island - pictures of those in a separate blog post later in the week... they were quite impressive for seagulls.

On landing on Inner Farne we immediately found the Bridled Tern again, where it showed for about 5 minutes before flying off (again). It then didn't reappear until 5 minutes before our boat was leaving! But it did show much better on this third sighting so I managed a couple of record shots on my phone below, still too far for my camera unfortunately, but at least you can tell what it is this time.

I think there's somewhere in the region of 30 UK records of Bridled Tern, this is likely to be the same bird that was on the Farnes in 2013 and possibly even the same bird that was in Northumberland in 2010?

Bridled Tern wing stretching (iPhone-scoped)

Bridled Tern (iPhone-scoped)

Bridled Tern (iPhone-scoped)

Bridled Tern  (iPhone-scoped)

And so a  mammoth weekend concluded with over 950 miles driven, several thousand calories consumed, lots of good birds seen and the mighty Ticos winning on penalties.

Thanks to Dave and Rodney for sharing the driving.

Looks like we got a dose of luck too - today the Eagle has flown 100 km further south back to the New Forest, and the Bridled Tern has disappeared for the day!

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