Regular readers of a previous blog will be aware of a standard type of post. The one where I go to Portland, have a great time, see some really nice Chiffchaffs, oh by the way others saw Albatross, Eagle, Hummingbird, but hey, it was great etc etc. Well not today!
I pitched up around noon after some local business and headed up the hill opposite the obs to where a small crowd was stood inspecting the very spot on the path where a Short-Toed Lark had been seen not very long ago. My general policy is not to hang around so I headed up to the top fields, and was admiring a party of 5 Stonechat when a lark flew over and landed further up. I got onto it and was soon taking in the general blandness and featurelessness that characterise Larks as a family. Its easy to agree with the sourrounding crowd on an id, but when you are faced with the bird itself its a different story. What are the particular features, or in this case lack of features, that characterise the Short Toed Lark? I remembered something about a neck or shoulder mark but there was nothing particularly obvious. Nevertheless I felt sure this was it - no streaking on the breast, no crest, slight russet cap, and most importantly it was feeding on the path. It was disturbed by holidaymakers and flew off, so I headed off to Southwell for a Yellow-Browed Warbler, noting a couple of Wheatears on the way.
Courtesy of helpful local birders I arrived at the line of sycamores hosting this particular siberian stray, and was soon pointed at a silhouette which promptly disappeared. We spend the next hour waiting for it to reappear but to no avail. The two birders there headed off, and I was about to do likewise when the YBW shot up from a bush and preceeded to give a specatcular performance out in the open at short range; hovering, flicking, constantly picking around leaves. Absolutely fantastic. It was over 25 years ago I last saw one of these, so probably not the same bird.
Back toward the Bill the Short Toed Lark had returned to the same point I last saw it. The id was now clinched by seeing the key identifying feature; an entourage of photographers who surely would not be wasting their time on a Skylark. We got ridiculously close, presumably not because the lark is by nature confiding, but presumably because this one, used to a life of being completely ignored due to its total featurelessness and overwhelming dullness, was now enjoying being the centre of attention.
Just time to get to Radipole for the Glossy Ibis, but would I get there before the North Hide shut to visitors? It closes at 4:30. Yes, that's right, its hosting a signficant rarity, its a Saturday, lots of RSPB members are keen to go and see it, but in the RSPB rules is rules and 4:30 sharp it closes. So I belted past 2 Clouded Yellow Butterflies and went off to Radipole, dashed to the North Hide and got into the hide at 4pm. The Ibis had dived into some reeds an hour before and had not been seen. Oh well, too much to ask to see all the birds on my list, so we stayed and chatted about this and that. A Water Rail walked casually along the muddy fringe of a reed bed, a couple of Wigeon dropped in, and as the man came to lock up we prepared to leave when suddenly serenely gliding past the open slots came the Ibis! Fortunately the chap contracted by the RSPB to perform the locking up had a passing interest in birds and we stopped to admire. I had been listening to a "clack-clack-clack" somewhere out left and had passed this off as a demented Stonechat, but the contractor then announced a Ring Ouzel on a bramble bush, so we duly admired this arrival - rarer than Glossy Ibis at Radipole, until we absolutely had to go. Note for future reference, remember that call! Ring Ouzels are apparently very chatty and love Brambles. Then just time for some more chat at the bandstand where in pristine low sunlight a hundred or so Mediterranean Gulls came through for a brief bathe before heading to the bay.
So, would I day like today fit into My Big Year of Wildlife? Undoubtedly yes. And quite a lot of them too. Right now, I think I could do a whole year of days like today."