Sunday, 29 July 2018

Monochrome morning

The door of the arid furnace finally fell off last week, and we have been deluged with rain and golf ball-sized hail, and frazzled by lightning and thunderbolts. But boy, is it a relief to feel fresh air and rain on my face!

Despite an early start for the Yorkshire Coast Nature Whale and Seabird Trip I was leading yesterday, I decided to get up early, not quite at the crack of dawn, but early enough for a Sunday. The rain had started but this would not deter me in my quest for waders. Down to Wheldrake Ings and the familiar sight of Duncan's car greeted me. Down to the hide to say hello to my mate and find out what he had found. Not a lot different to yesterday was the news, but that was good enough for me.

 The monochrome view from Pool Hide. Currently, York's answer to North Scrape!

For the next couple of hours, we enjoyed the relative comfort of Pool Hide as the rain poured down, refreshing the cracked, barren mud of the lagoon. The wind gusted, but was at our backs, so we were sheltered. And best of all, there were waders; and they were close! A quintet of Snipe probed long bills into the globulous gloop, whilst a hat-trick of Common Sandpipers skittered along the back edge, tail wagging and nervous. The black and white forms of Green Sandpipers picked here and there, eight in all: it is always a joy to welcome these excitable travellers back, with their delightful 'Too-wee-wee-wee' call.

But here, close-to, a more elegant shape, with bold head stripes and beautifully white-notched upperparts, and longer shanks, a juvenile Wood Sandpiper. A gorgeous wader, even more attractive than the adult that was here a few weeks ago. This bird, possibly born in Norway, or maybe even Scotland, is heading down to Southern Europe, or perhaps West Africa for the winter, gracing us for a few days with its presence.

 Green Sandpiper (front), with Wood Sandpiper

 Wood Sand.

Nearby, a drake Garganey filtered who-knows-what from the soup. He seemed to be enjoying his breakfast.
Garganey, eclipse drake. Note the white edging on the tail. Not the white mark shown by a Teal, but showing that care must be taken not to discount a bird like this if the head is not visible.

We walked round to Swantail Hide, slightly melancholy about its imminent demolition, although happy that it will be replaced by a better structure in the next couple of months. A young Grey Heron eyed us suspiciously through the monochrome morning light, rain still battering down.

I headed off, getting drenched in the process. The rain tried hard to damped my spirits, but fortune favours the brave I am told, so I drove to Heslington East to check the lake for more leggy birds. Sadly, I was not favoured today, and four Common Sandpipers and two Snipe were all I had to show for my efforts in the dreadful weather. However, the drawdown does look good, having revealed a good muddy edge to the lake in places as the water has evaporated in the recent heat, and is well worth keeping an eye on as we go through wader season...

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