Well we were planning on going for the Great Blue Heron on the Isles of Scilly today (or the Harlequin in Aberdeen)… however the fact we were doing a newt survey till the early hours yesterday and again in the morning led to tiredness and we decided not to bother this weekend. Anyway I have to say I was disappointed as the Heron would have been my first tick in a long time!
We were still recovering this morning when the pager went off with a mega alert, now I’ve even become a bit jaded with these, as new birds are few and very far between, and after the Heron it wouldn’t be something else we needed anyway….. would it? Picking it up I was greeted by the message Somerset- Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath NR…. cue panic! This has been a much wanted blocker for many years (30 at least I think). One of our friends had seen the last bird at Blacktoft Sands and along with American Redstart was one of the birds he could tease us with.
We grabbed our gear and headed south down the M5. We arrived at a spanking new car park at Ashcott Corner (thank heavens for the new car park, otherwise it would have been hell parking as the old ones were tiny!).
A short walk along the side of the dyke and we joined a fairly large crowd looking out over a scrape on the opposite side.
There was a flock of Black-tailed Godwits resting on a mud bank in the scrape and they were mostly asleep. A scan through them soon produced an odd darker bird fast asleep facing us….
The bird was clearly the Hudwit, being a little smaller and shorter legged than the Blackwits and being much darker in appearance, the underparts being heavily barred. It reminded me of a Dowitcher in that way.
We settled in to wait for it to wake up! This took a while but eventually it woke up and looked around and stretched its wings revealing the jet black underwings.
Then it went back to sleep! It was some time later when the flock got more active and eventually the bird flew a short distance and began to feed actively.
Now we were able to really see the bird well. It stood out from its commoner companions being darker bellied with strong barring of black, a deep rufous (tinged more “maroon” in tone than the Blackwits),and paler fringes to the feathers. it was barred right under the under tail coverts. The tail itself had a larger black terminal band than the Blackwits. The head and breast were paler and greyer toned than the belly with streaking, contrasting well to produce a pale headed look. The face had a rich ginger tone to the base of the bill but I think this may have been staining from the water. There was a strong super’ and dark cap and eye stripe. It was in flight the bird really stood out more being very dark against the much paler and whiter Blackwits.
Links to video for those whose browsers do not pick up the video here…
We had our fill of the bird then wandered around the reserve a bit. We had constant booming Bitterns and saw 3 in flight. Also present where Wood Sandpiper, Garganey, Little Egret and a brief Crane. We missed the Great White Egrets though. Cetti’s Warblers sang from almost every bush and the reeds were churring with Reed Warblers.
Very glad we decided to give the heron/duck a miss… when the news broke we would have been in Penzance and as we were planning on staying on Scilly, rather stuck wit hgetting on the Scilonian. Even more glad as the Hudwit left the scrape just after we left and disappeared, not to be seen again…..
To be honest I’d rather have the Hudwit than the Heron/duck anyway, I reckon it will be rarer in the long run than the Heron too…. But I just hope the heron/duck stay a while then we may get another go!