Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Acadian Flycatcher

The title of the blog was going to be Wilson's Phalarope but a change of plan ended up with me seeing an even rarer bird.

The Phalarope was at Vange Marshes in Essex and I had arrived there about 10.30 just as the rain was clearing. I made my way over to where a couple of people looked to be watching the bird, only to be pointed in the direction of a distant spot on the other side of the scrape, probably three hundred metres away.

Through the bins I could see that it was a Phalarope although I could not have made the identification of a Wilson's. Even blowing the shots up on the back of the camera did not give me enough detail in the image. I was considering heading back to the car for my small travel scope but fortunately one of the birders there let me look at it through his Swarovski Scope. The detail seen was staggering. I must really scrape some funds together to get one of these.

Wilson' Phalarope

I waited to see if it would come closer but after an hour with the rain starting up again I gave up and retreated to the car. I was hoping to see the Glossy Ibis that had been reported over Vange Marsh and also at the Watt Tyler Country Park but an hour trudging around in the rain soon dampened my spirits. The RSPB Visitors centre did not seem to know where it went during the day, only that it often came back to roost during the evening.

I retired to the car once again to eat my sandwiches, reconsider what to do in the afternoon, and best of all to enjoy a short siesta. The only problem was that I kept getting disturbed  by Mega alerts coming through on the phone. Something called a Empidonax sp. - I had no idea what it was and anyway I don't do Twitches so I switched the phone off and went back to the siesta.

A short while later and much refreshed it occurred to me that if the experts could not put a name to the bird then it must be really rare. It was still raining so the choice was go home or wait for about five hours in the car to see the Glossy Ibis come in to roost. In the end I decided to drive down to Dungeness to see what an Empidonax looked like and to experience my first large twitch.

I have to say I didn't like it. When I arrived at 1530 there must have been between two and three hundred people on site and there were more arriving all the time. It was like a ring of steel all around South View Cottage where the bird seemed to have taken refuge. Everyone was well behaved but somehow it all felt uncomfortable. This was a tiny bird, thousands of miles from home that was probably going to live a short and lonely life. Did we care - not really, it was all about getting the tick.

Lifted from Twitter - original I think by Owen Leyshon

I only stayed about ten minutes. I saw the bird, grabbed a few quick record shots, said hello to a couple of faces I knew and then went home. I will probably regret it when I see some really good pictures coming out over the next couple of days but it wasn't for me.

Acadian Flycatcher

The Empidonax sp now seems to have been identified as an Acadian Flycatcher, a North American bird for which this is the first record in the UK and only the second for Europe. 


The previous day I had also been in Kent and had stopped off at Samphire Hoe on the way back to look for Black Redstarts. It's probably now the most reliable site that I know of for these birds. I saw either four or six, it was a bit difficult to tell as they were very mobile. It's a good place to see them but it is not easy to get close.

Black Redstart

So two life ticks in the Wilson's Phalarope and the Acadian Flycatcher and a good year tick for the Black Redstarts.

and, just in case you were wondering, the Glossy Ibis did come in to roost in its usual spot at 1900 - but I wasn't there to see it.

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