Saturday, 18 June 2016
Another Velvet Morning
Following a week away with a couple of days around Fort William looking at Chequered Skippers I returned to the Fen to a report of a Little Bittern photographed at Wicken at some point during the spring. It was as good an excuse as any to stretch the legs after 2 days of driving and breathe in the damp, sedge and rush of the evening. A Barn Owl busied itself in the hunt, a Grasshopper Warbler reeled distantly and a fledged Reedling pinged and pitched about the Phragmites. The ditches alongside the boardwalks all looked perfect for a Little Bittern and Ben did some convincing barking to show willing. Once the sun had dipped below the horizon a Great Bittern took a long and high flight to the west and a octet of Hobby danced above the Sallows at the edge of the mire. I was glad to be home.
Having seen the Little Bittern photo I'm not convinced that it was taken at Wicken or indeed in this country, although that will all have to be considered if the sighting is submitted to any kind of records committee. On the theme of rarities I was tempted to rise before the lark and head to Titchwell during the week in hope of seeing Britain's 5th Great Knot. It was a good decision and alongside fantastic views of this Asian vagrant, a whole smorgasbord of North Norfolk delights put on a show. Walking out towards the sunrise tight bands of Knot twisted against the orange glow and onto the freshmarsh, and a Spoonbill winged out towards Thornham. We followed the clouds of Knot as they twisted down onto the marsh and before setting eyes on the settled flock directions towards our quarry were drifting down the assembled line of folk.
What a cracking bird and well worth the early rise. We sought better light and closer views from the hide and were rewarded. An hour of lovely birding ensued with plenty to divert from the bird but with regular returns to drink in the star of the show. Six soot and spangled Spotted Redshank picked around, with needle like bills, at the back of the marsh. Sandwich and Little Terns paid brief visits, while Little Ringed Plovers and Avocets saw off all comers with young tottering around on the mud edge and retreating to cower in the vegetation. A vocal pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew over, pitched into the gull colony and then moved to the island just in front. Raucous, vivid, bold and beautiful.
Dragging ourselves away from the show and back along the reed edge, Bittern continued to boom and a male Bearded Tit hung on a close stem long enough to enjoy but not enough to savour. A couple of hours later I was yawning at work, but it had been a rewarding and magical start to the day.