A dirty day’s twitching…

Red-necked Phalarope (record shot)

Today I went on the Sheffield Bird Study Group’s “Twitcher’s Fieldtrip”. Basically it was a bit of a mystery tour, with no fixed destination, and decisions based on where we go based purely on what birds are around.

A concentration of decent stuff led us to Lincolnshire, where we started off at what must be one of the longest-named nature reserve in Britain, Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes NNR. On the way we stopped to examine a field of mute swans near North Cote, and found at least 14 whooper swans among them, which was a great start to the day.

On arriving at Saltfleetby, we began looking for our targets, shore lark, twite and snow bunting – not mega rarities by any stretch but nice birds to see. A large mixed flock of twite and snow bunting were very easy to find, and even got reasonably close to us, and a bit of scanning of the shore finally turned up four shore larks hopping along right opposite the main path to the car park. Shore larks are a bird I’ve always wanted to see, and along with the twites, were among the first two of a quartet of lifers for the day.

Then we moved on to Far Ings to see the star of the day (and the third lifer), the juvenile red-necked phalarope that has been hanging around for a good few days. It really was an obliging little bird, showing well and close as soon as we got to the lagoon it’s been frequenting. Sadly our arrival at the phalarope also heralded the first proper downpour of the day, a rather nasty shower that meant we didn’t give the phalarope (or Far Ings) the attention deserved, and the ropey picture above is all I managed to get in fear of my camera getting horribly drenched. As we were retreating, we did manage to get a woodcock in flight over the reserve, and the feeding station saw a group of tree sparrows and a peculiarly dark-coloured great tit.

Next stop was Alkborough, hoping to see the green-winged teal that has been there recently. Sadly the flock of common teals were loitering on the far side of the lake, and despite many eyes squinting down scopes none were giving up any vertical-stripe secrets. There were some great sights to be had there, though, as thousands of waders, including lapwing, golden plover, knot, dunlin and black-tailed godwit took to the skies simultaneously as a marsh harrier menaced over the reeds.

Then the final stop was over the Humber at Blacktoft Sands. Sadly some pillock in the car in front decided to eat into our fading daylight by insisting on driving in front of the minibus, on the windy, unovertakable (shut up, it is a word, honest…)  roads at no more than 20mph, for what seemed like miles and miles. Tempers temporarily frayed, when we finally arrived at Blacktoft we were rewarded by our final target of the day in the shape of four water pipits, that were flitting around on the mud and viewable from the Stapleton hide. Conclusive ID from the meadow pipits that were also present proved initially quite tricky, but the water pipits’ more contrasting plumage and strong supercilium made them stand out and something out of the ordinary (I’m sure someone else can explain the finer points a bit better than me!). A few members of the group picked up a barn owl (although I was too busy squinting at pipits at the time), and of course the Blacktoft marsh harriers were as active as ever, but sadly nothing else exciting arrived before we left.

So a great day bombing around Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, and some cracking birds seen. Thanks to Paul Medforth for organising the trip and driving us around all day!


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My name is Pete

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