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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Mega Migrant Bonanza!

Photo courtesy Steven Bailey
 That's a heading I don't get to use very often about the Marsh and Mere but today its true!

Its as if the floodgates have opened on the continent and all of the migrants that have been held back are now pouring through. Today provided a good range of summer migrants and two site scarcities!

It started off gently enough with House Martin for the year but as I walked across to Pelsall the arrivals started to become apparent. First it was Willow Warbler singing on the set-aside field, I made my way across to get good views and a Common Whitethroat started up in the bush next to me! I then crossed the tin bridge to an accompaniment of Chiffchaff and there on the field in front of me was the first real noteworthy bird, an immature male Wheatear. I scanned the field for any others but there was nothing else of note (that is worth remembering).

A singing Lesser Whitethroat proved elusive and then above me were three calling Tern. Three Common Tern thinks he, two were quite amorous and peeled away from the third which I suddenly noticed had extremely long tail streamers, double check on the upper wing primaries and sure enough, Arctic Tern, a completely unexpected visitor and a difficult one to put on your site list. I moved to a better vantage point but no further sign of the Arctic, just a solitary Common Tern. A great bird but obviously one that was just passing through. Never mind, as Al Jolson said - "The best is yet to come".


Brief pause for a visit to the optometrist and a decision to walk back over the Marsh and see if I could get views of the Lesser-throat. I arrived back at the Mere and was surprised to see a covey of birders some with good bins and even scopes, had I been suppressed on something very rare? Well thankfully not, it was an unexpected visit by Walsall R.S.P.B. group with illustrious leader Mike Pittaway leading them boldly forth. I stopped for a chat and gave the S.P. on what I had seen earlier, directing them to the paddocks to look for the Wheatear (at this point the second best bird of the day).

Being the anti-social birder and having a reputation to keep up, I proceeded alone down the mineral line (actually I was trying to find the elusive Lesser Throat). Somehow I got down to the end of the mineral line ahead of the birders and started to scan the field for the Wheatear so that I could give some support when they got there. However, instead of a little bright chat with a white bum I found myself looking at a tall sleek brown wader with a stripy head!  

Whimbrel - on the ground feeding! Whimbrel never stop to feed here, they just fly through!

The usual view of a Whimbrel locally - if you are lucky!
I knew this was an overdue site tick for a certain Mr Fellows and that put me into panic mode. I imagined the R.S.P.B. group totally focused on looking for Wheatear walking into the paddock and putting it to flight. I stood on the style waving my arms and fortunately they saw both me and the Whimbrel and before long there were a dozen of us enjoying this sleek and gorgeous migrant wader.

If you think that was the end of my day you have another thing coming! I was then on Whimbrel-sitting duties until Mr Fellows could get across to see it - forty five minutes and one cooperative dog walker later (who I persuaded not to go into the field - so a big thank you required there), a steaming and out of breath Ray arrived, only to find the bird..... still there (yippee)!

Even then we had not had enough as the Lesser Whitethroat was now calling from the low pit mounds, so Ray and I sallied forth and obtained good flight views and even a couple of perched views of one of our scarcest warblers locally.

Lovely to see all from The RSPB as well as the neighbours, dog walkers etc who paused to say hello to the strange imbecile perched on the stile.

What a day! Can we do that every time I go over please? - Chaz