Sunday, 30 April 2017

Longham Patch 22nd/26th/ 27th April 2017

What a few days it as been at my local patch Longham Lakes, the patch is a in land wet land on the south coast ( for those that do not know the place) comprising of two large lakes the North Lake and South Lake with a causeway running east to west between the two and gravel paths going round both lakes, at the west side is the river Stour and Hampreston meadows.
On the 22nd I arrived late at 10.40 at the lakes on a cloudy but with sunny spells hoping for a Wheatear or some migrant that might of dropped in over night. It did not take me long to find 3 Egyptian geese resting on the east side of the large island in South Lake. Walking up the causeway I flushed 3 Common Sandpipers, stopping at the gap in the willow scrub to look over the north side of the island two of the Sandpipers were on the exposed shoreline. I had a pleasant walk round south lake with Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff singing but did not locate anything new and reaching the start of the causeway I paused for a moment. As it was a very nice day and the cloud cover was almost gone I decided to walk back up the causeway and go round the North Lake. That was a very good dession to make as I arrived at the western side of the lake I looked over Hampreston Fields scanning the fence posts and ground for Wheatears or Yellow Wagtails. I noticed a small bird flitting about between fench posts and a patch of bramble, I was expecting it to be a Stonechat but through the binoculars the bird did not fit for a Stonechat. So I got the scope fixed on to the bird and it was a wonderful male Whinchat,these are very rare spring migrants for the patch and I believe it is only the 10th one and the first since 2014.

Male Whinchat
 On the 26th April while at work I checked the BirdGuides app just to see what was about just before going back to work after my lunch break, only to read a Bonaparte's Gull! had been seen a round the north west corner of South Lake so I was kicking myself for not checking the app at the beginning of my lunch break as Longham is only a 5 minute drive depending of traffic from my place of work.
The rest of the afternoon I was thinking do I wait until tomorrow or shoot over after work. 4.30pm could not arrive quick enough and I phoned the wife that I would be late in for tea as I had made up my mind to go after work.Arriving in the car park my heart sank a little as it was empty so I thought the gull had gone, but luckily there were to birders sat on a bench on the west side of South Lake . We searched and searched but not having my scope or my best binoculars with me I was finding difficult with birds out in the middle and towards the south side of the island. Lucky one of the birders had picked up the bird and kindly let me have a view, so I got my 1st distance view of my 1st Bonaparte's

All day on the 27th I was hoping that the bird would stay until the weekend as I knew I was unable to make my usual Friday afternoon trip. Getting home after work I kept mulling over whether to go back and see if I could obtain a better view of the gull. So after tea I decided that's it I have got to go and boy was that great decision .Arriving to find the car park almost empty apart for a couple of angler's cars I  made my way up the causeway scanning North Lake as I went and half way up the causeway I stopped  and scanned again with the binoculars , I said to myself is that the bird so I got the scope fixed on to it and yes a wonderful view of the gull. I managed to get a very ropey phone scoped record shot of the bird just before it lifted off the water and watched fly towards me and dropped down behind some reeds. At this point Two birders (Terry Elbon and Mike Gibbons) arrived and I told them gull was just behind the reeds, we moved a little to the right to get a better view along the edge of these and the gull was sitting on one of the small artificial floating islands giving very good views. While the bird was sat on the island I managed again to get a couple of record shots of the bird but the light was not great. An angler started putting in some bait and the the Black-headed Gulls that were settled on the water lifted off and the Bonaparte's joined them give spectacular close flight views.
ropey record shot of Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull on the island

Bonaparte's in poor light
 While the gull was flying a round with the Black-headed Gulls we all lost sight of it and started searching the sky and speculating whether it had gone off to roost somewhere , when Mike Gibbons shouts out Red-rumped Swallow hawking over the causeway, it them promptly flew towards the three of us. Tweets were sent out and slowly a few birders joined use to see the spectal of the Red-rumped Swallow wizing about hawking over the causeway at eye level at times The Red-rumped Swallow is an over shoot from Southern Europe were it comes to breed after spending the winter in tropical Africa . With the many Swallows, Sand Martins and a House Martins along with a couple of Swifts it was not long before a Hobby shot through cuasing a stir. What a carzy, exciting wonderful evening it was with one bird from North America and the other from Southern Europe. It was great to be part of it all.

Sand Martin

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