Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Chasing a 'Whimbrel' bags me a EURASIAN CURLEW


A real scorcher of a day with early afternoon temperatures rising to a sweltering 30 degrees C (86 degrees fahrenheit). Clear blue skies all the way and a slight southerly breeze.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1100-1230 hours)

After hearing of Richard Bennett's Wilstone 'Whimbrel' at 0930, I hurriedly made my way over there. Just as I arrived in the car park, Dave B texted to say that Mike Campbell and others were watching it from the hide. Knowing how often waders fly off as you are walking round to them, I scanned from the top of the steps but to no avail. I phoned MC and he confirmed that the bird was still present but could ONLY be seen from the hide; it was feeding on the south side of the shingle causeway.

Ten minutes later I reached the hide and setting up my 'scope, I exclaimed to Mike ''It's a juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW''. It was showing extremely well and was resting at the edge of the water, occasionally drinking, and just after I spoke to Mike announced itself personally and uttered a typical Curlew wail.

Young Curlews such as this one are often an identification challenge because not only do they show a hint of a supercilium but they also have a relatively short bill. In reality, there is no supercilium and the eye is enclosed by an obvious whitish ring; furthermore there are no coronial crown stripes or median crown stripe. On close inspection, the bill was seen to have a broad pinkish base, the long legs a very blue cast and the breast sides and flanks very finely streaked (not spotted as in adults).

What I found most interesting (and it is a feature I have often noted with juveniles) was that the underwing and axillaries were very clean white and unmarked - a feature often associated with Eastern Curlew (orientalis) identification - and one constantly metered out by those backing the Northumberland Slender-billed Curlew ill-fated and misguided wagon.

Steve Rodwell is the Wilstone Curlew specialist (he generally has between 4 and 8 spring flyovers) and I was delighted to see this individual pitched down and readily twitchable. Steve Carter, Phil 'long-haired' Ball and several other interested parties also connected and the bird remained 'settled' on the bund until at least 1230 hours, basking in hot sunshine.

Runners Up

LITTLE EGRETS continue to increase, with all of yesterday's 7 showing - commuting between the fallen Willow, the creek behind the hide and the muddy creek in the SW corner.

An adult HOBBY was again present, whilst waders were represented by 398 Lapwing, the 3 juvenile COMMON GREENSHANKS and the COMMON SANDPIPER.

Wildfowl remain static at drake Eurasian Wigeon, 22 Common Teal and 35 Northern Shoveler.

19 Common Tern and single COMMON KINGFISHER

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