A peek through the curtains this morning looked like the weather had conspired to scotch the 200 challenge, but on closer inspection the heavy frost was simply confined to cars and not the roads. Having said that, the 'gritters' were in evidence as I passed through Abbotsbury at 06:00 on my way to Devon again to try and redress yesterday's 'blank'.
There had been no news on the 'bird alert lines' about the Long-eared Owl at Exminster Marshes but that was the first port of call where I found nothing after a 30 minute stay.
is only a 20 minute drive away, and with my determination to get something on the score board I dug in for the long stay. At the small harbour of Cockswood the tide appeared still to be low, but it is so far up the estuary that there was still time for it to fill.
After the walk across the dunes footpath the bird hide was found to be empty, not really what I wanted as a little 'local knowledge' usually proved to be very helpful.
The view from the hide of the rapidly filling River Exe Estuary was mainly of wading birds, not quite what I was after, but with 'thousands' of them to look through it would keep me busy while also searching for the Duck.
As the tide rolled in the birds got nearer but the only wildfowl recorded thus far were a few Red-breasted Merganser, half a dozen Shelduck plus a few flights of Brent Geese.
Oystercatchers where gathering in many hundreds,
while the tens of Redshank were getting closer to the hide by the minute.
Dunlin too were in good numbers,
but as for the other Ducks they were right over there some 2Km away.
The odd Curlew was now getting closer seeming content to feed, but there's always someone wants to spoil the party.
Seemingly without provocation, this Carrion Crow made a number of attacks
on this Curlew which seemed quite capable of holding its own. While this shot does show the Crow with a pebble in its bill, it seemed every bit as if it was deliberately dropping stone on the Wader?
Grey Plover and Knot both held their ground until the water level was above their bellies, so never really got too close to the hide, but that's when the Cavalry arrived. Lee Collins and his mate Dave are 2 local birders who seem to have their finger on the pulse and told me they had seen the target bird but only from the Golf Course. There was much activity on the links, but remembering the words of Banksy - "it is easier to get forgiveness than permission" - it was game on!
Only a couple of hundred metres further on, but out of sight of the hide, I found the American Wigeon
all fairly distant and keeping close to the sedges.
Not only was the bird logged but the walk was back towards the car
This image taken in the USA is for illustration of how they look close up. Beaming with success it was now time to drive the 5 miles or so to Topsham, where my next target had last been seen yesterday.
Dart Farm is a massive complex of shops, fishing lakes, gardens and open fields where it took no time at all to find the Brent Geese
and very soon after the Red-breasted Goose.
An older lady with a pair of broken binoculars approached and asked what I was looking at,
and was delighted when I told her. However, she was having difficulty following my directions (or more likely I was not being too explicit),
but lending her my optics she was soon on it and even more thrilled that previously.
A closer shot of the Lodmoor bird a couple of years ago for illustration. It was now time to bomb (slowly) up the Motorway to Burnham on Sea in the county of Somerset on my next pursuit.
There at the River Brue Estuary it could be seen, looking to seaward, that the tide was well out,
and the river bed almost dried out looking inland. To find no local birders is always a little disheartening, but my search got underway finding quite a few Redshank and a single Little Egret, and then up on the bund a whole host of telescopes. Surely this meant these observers had the bird, but on closing distance I heard one lady utter those immortal words " yes that was it flying away to the east"! This was a group from Warwickshire looking for the same bird, while soon the group leader claimed he had seen it which turned into a false alarm.
It was some time later that the same man did locate the Lesser Yellowlegs
but we all had to make a dash to catch up with him. It remained distant at all times,
another archive photograph for the record. There was a further option of trying for a Yellow-browed Warbler some miles down the road at Ham Wall, but it was now 15:30 and raining. A drive home seemed far more practical, which is what I did but hope to be out on the prowl again tomorrow!
The Year (January) List now stands at 196
4 species and just 2 days.
4 species and just 2 days.