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6 Sep 2012

The blockers keep tumbling in the year of the grip-back

When a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher was photographed at Lodmoor RSPB reserve near Weymouth no one paid much attention apart from a few mutterings of 'it can't be an juvenile its to early' and 'those tertials an arf look stripey'. All credit to Rich Bonser who suggested people take a second look. Cue mild panic as better photo's became available. The cat was emerging from the bag and as luck would have it I was working in Devon and was already on the M5 heading south when the first tentative probable Short-billed Dowitcher messages began filtering through.................

Even luckier I was staying at my parents only 40 minutes away that night so I'd have two bites of the cherry. I called in briefly Tuesday lunchtime and was just in time for a brief glimpse as the bird flew off and then had to shoot down to my meeting. With no further sign that afternoon I enjoyed a couple of beers and went to bed to be woken by the phone buzzing around midnight. RBA had mega'd the bird as a Short-billed Dowitcher and put the message out - cheers Stu! That's the kind of message I don't mind being woken for. Re-setting the alarm for an earlier time to get some work out the way before driving the short distance to Weymouth I promptly went back to sleep dreaming about how jammy I was being in the right place at the right time for a change.

It's many years since I've left on a twitch being waved off by Mum with a carry-out in tin foil and a flask of tea and it brought back numerous memories of trips from our Suffolk home in the '70's.

I got to site around 11 to find the bird hadn't been seen since about 8 am so rather than sticking with the crowds a couple of use deiced to wander around the reserve and have a good search. The weather was extremely hot and the heat haze began to be a problem as did the sunburn! A couple of hours later after seeing nothing more than a few Common Sandpipers and a Painted Lady we were wandering back to the car park to grab a butty when someone reported the bird had just been seen for a few seconds before heading back into deep cover.



That someone was our old mate Dan 'Paddy' Pointon and his chief mucker 'Big Al Orton'. To general disbelief in some quarters they'd seen the bird emerge briefly from a channel in some juncus before disappearing again. Mutterings of 'it's a Snipe' and 'some one must be desparate' failed to deter our heroes and after an hours vigilance the bird suddenly showed again. I even got a text asking if someone was stringing a Snipe. This time the mutterings turned to shouts ' I can't see the f***g thing, some one give me directions', 'I'm not tall enough, someone please move' and the classic 'I think I've got it - its either that or it might be a Moorhen'. (It was a Moorhen to which the polite version of the response was I'd give up and go home mate'.)

From our vantage point on the bank alongside the reserve we could see the bird but were quite distant so after awhile we went back down to the main track where we'd be about 40 m nearer although the bird was still a good 60 -70 m away. A good move as the bird suddenly showed a lot better and gave prolonged views albeit still sticking close to the juncus. But it allowed the requisite 'record shots'.





The bright sunshine was a major issue as can be seen by the completely burnt out white of the Black-headed Gulls in the foreground. The photo's are heavily cropped as can be seen from an uncropped original below.
 

With a long drive back to Cheshire ahead I left around 3 pm and had a decent run back arriving at 7.30 with no stops and no major hold ups. The 5th major blocker to fall so far this year along with Common Yellowthroat, Cream-coloured Courser, Little Swift and Orphean Warbler. Here's hoping for a nice juvenile Baillon's Crake at Burton Mere Wetlands.............................................................
 
Thats 481 BOU for my UK life list. 19 to go for the magic 500 BOU with not a dodgy split or any Irish birds amongst them. I might even treat myself to a dodgy 'T' shirt.

5 comments :

Adam Hartley (Gnome) said...

Hi Phil, nice write-up! I was the chap who went round the reserve with you to look for the bird. It was nice to meet you, hope to bump into you again at the next grip-back!

Adam

Blog: http://oxfordbirder.blogspot.co.uk/

swamp said...

they do indeed keep tumblin'. would semi-p plover be another one? if it is, i guess you're already on your way, hehe

Phil Woollen. said...

Cheers Adam. Nice t omeet up with yo uand sorry I didn't see you before Iwent. I assume you stayed and saw the Dowitcher?

Phil Woollen. said...

Swamp Master - it is indeed! Work stopped me going to Dawlish but a weekend trip to South Uist may well be in order.......

Adam Hartley (Gnome) said...

Hi Phil, yes I managed to see the bird though only for about a minute before it went back to skulking and I had to leave before it gave itself up properly.