Monday, 27 August 2012

Cannot get enough of this rain 27 August 2012

After my soaking at Pendeen I know no fear of foul weather. My birding clothes have finally dried out although retaining a slight odour of damp but this was not enough to stop me chancing my arm at Farmoor today. A wet Bank Holiday Monday at Farmoor is just about the epitome of despair but rain often brings down birds onto the reservoir. So there is always hope. I got there late at around 10am and found the Wickster, Clackers and Badger had already 'done' Farmoor and predictably found nothing and were all about to give up and go off  and do various good deeds. Wickster however joined me for a jaunt up the Causeway. It was now raining steadily but Common Swifts suddenly started to appear and by the time we got to the far end of the Causeway we estimated there was in excess of fifty. We also saw a Yellow Wagtail and the Egyptian Goose was still consorting with the hundreds of Greylags lining the concrete bank. Wickster went to the Hide to sit and wait in anticipation of terns arriving on the reservoir with the rain. I decided to walk round both reservoirs looking for the Little Stint and set off round Farmoor One. Just about as far away from Farmoor Two as I could possibly be and Wickster calls on his mobile to inform me that twenty 'probable' Arctic Terns had just flown through and had not stopped! All I could come up with was one Common Sandpiper and a couple of Reed Warblers. I trudged on and coming up to the Waterworks found a juvenile Dunlin and juvenile Ringed Plover sharing each other's company on the concrete bank. Very confiding, they appeared untroubled by my taking their photos and the Dunlin even went to sleep at one point. 

Juvenile Ringed Plover

Juvenile Dunlin showing off its flexible upper mandible
I carried on right round Farmoor Two seeing nothing of interest and re-joined the Wickster. No sign of the Little Stint. We retreated to the Hide and sat morosely looking at a dreary, tern free reservoir and bemoaned our fate. Bank Holiday Monday blues were coming on strong. Stirring ourselves we headed back down the Causeway and arrived at the Yacht Club. There was now no sign of the Dunlin and Ringed Plover. The 'odd' Common Tern was perched on the pontoons so I took its picture. It has been here for some time now and it's bill is all black and its plumage pretty threadbare. I just do not know what to make of it. Seen close to there appears to be a dark line along the lesser coverts which would indicate a second calendar year bird but its hood is completely black. It does not look quite right as though something hormonally is wrong but it seems energetic enough patrolling the reservoir banks but it seems reluctant, unlike most terns to fly out over the water to feed. It would not surprise me to find it dead one morning.

Aberrant Common Tern

Migrant Arctic Terns
Just as we passed the Yacht Club another light rain shower came through. I took one last scan of Farmoor Two and a scattering of white at the far side materialised into a flock of terns. Through the scope I could see they were Arctic Terns-a mixture of adults and juveniles and there were 23 of them. They flew in a loose flock, feeding by dipping down to the water and flying in a ragged line back and fore across the reservoir. After about twenty minutes they settled with some Black headed Gulls sitting on the water. I have only ever seen Arctic Terns settle on the water at Farmoor. Common Terns never seem to do this. They bathed and preened energetically but after a few minutes, almost as one, the entire flock arose and ascended higher and higher, circling until they were almost in the clouds above Wytham Woods and we lost sight of them. There really is something so exciting about seeing such obvious visible migration before one's very eyes

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