Monday, January 7, 2013

Hen Harrier, Grey Plover, Gt Northern Diver

Despite high pressure over western France, this western seaboard has been shrouded in ‘Scots mist’ for the past week or so. But hazel catkins are already a-dangle over the lane; narcissi shooting beside the gate; lawn needing a trim already: winter has been washed away leaving an early taste of spring.

Dull morning on the estuary brings fewer species than usual, but some memorable highlights. Expected neat little Teal, sharp-winged Wigeon and large upright Shelduck on shining mud-banks; small party of back-quiffed Merganser, drakes displaying in quietly filling estuary channel; large party of gulls rest up on wide sand flats. Heavy brown Curlew stand on the river bend; smaller, elegant grey and silver Redshank, active and alert.

Scanning for soaring raptors over far dunes, a small white bar floats over and across expansive reed-beds backed by dark osiers at the back of the marsh; only gradually, camouflaged, brown angled wings and long steering tail of female Hen Harrier materialises, quartering reed-bed margins.

On boulder shore, large, white-on-black Oystercatchers take off, ‘peeping’ frantically as usual with smaller, stripe-winged Turnstones; soft mewing with buzzing calls from a party of small, fast, sharp-winged Ringed Plover and Dunlin wheeling out over the sea then back and away up the estuary. Two distinctive plaintive calls from a single, medium-sized wader heading away in direct flight across the estuary mouth, grey with pale wing-stripe, belly and rump, alighting upright and stout billed in dark bladder-wrack: first Grey Plover of the year.

Taking the eye from the ‘scope, a long, low, dark form swims seaward in the estuary mouth below, heavy-ridged brow deciding unusually close view of Great Northern Diver, seen here perhaps once a year, twisting up a clear white belly to preen before swimming fast with the current into spreading waters of the filling estuary.

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