Friday 2 November 2012

Slimbridge and a Long-billed Dowitcher

With no news from Notts about the Jack Snipe, we didn't have time to go there on spec and look for the thing with no idea where to start so we abandoned that idea, we'll get plenty of chances later in the winter nearer home anyway I should think, how about you guys down in Herts finding us one at Rye Meads? (Mike? Barry?). Anyway, I digress, so we went straight for the Long-billed Dowitcher at Slimbridge WWT

Of course there is every chance we’ll see these somewhere in the Americas, but to be honest it seemed like a fitting place to visit at the beginning of our quest being as it is that they will be the recipients of your generosity. We also wanted to meet the young lady who has been helping us with photos, information and general support and advice, Ellie Wise. It was great to see her in person and we only saw the Long-billed Dowitcher because she knew where to look.

When we arrived Ellie radioed the wardens and asked where the LBD was, they told us, as Martin McGill had suggested on his tweet to us, that it was to be seen on Tack Piece from the Robbie Garnett hide. So off we went.
View from Robbie Garnett hide
When we arrived the light was wonderful and there was a carpet of Black-tailed Godwits on the flooded field. The scanning began, and eventually I found the beast near the front of the flock. 
Long-billed Dowitcher arrowed
Extremely enlarged detail of the above picture

No sooner had we found it than something spooked the flock and up they went. 
Long-billed Dowitcher arrowed top right in flight
The flock circled around twice and then split in two, one section settling back on the field, the other flying directly over our heads and away. As they went over I was convinced I saw a smaller bird in there and that our LBD had gone. A fruitless search over the next half hour proved my fears correct. So we decided to try the South Lake and see if it had relocated there.

On arrival at South Lake the light was now against us, but even as near silhouettes it was obvious that the small group of Black-tailed Godwits did not harbor within it the LBD. Ellie had to leave us at this point, she had other work to attend to, so we thanked her and left the hide soon after her. 
Ellie Wise, foreground, helping us try and locate the dowitcher at South Lake
Just outside there had been a Yellow-browed Warbler seen during the morning so we stopped by to see if it was still around. 
Elis looking following directions to the Yellow-browed Warbler
It was not, but who should we bump into there? Non other than Martin McGill who was part of the team that went to Russia to collect the eggs, he too was looking for the warbler. After our short chat and forcing the poor bloke to suffer my excruciating interview techniques (note to self: must remember to let the person answer the question after asking it!), Elis and I headed for the Zeiss hide. Here too there were a number of Black-tailed Godwits, but frustratingly they were all resting and some were hidden from view by a bank, we had no way of knowing if the dowitcher was among this group,  but it was not one of the birds we could see. There were also a number of Dunlin resting and feeding here and a couple of European Golden Plovers.
Chatting to Martin McGill
We then returned to the first hide and found there were no godwits at all, so we set off to re-find Ellie, drag her off kicking and screaming to the Wader Shore exhibit, for a spot of Q&A to camera for the record, she came across rather better than I did that was for sure, she being somewhat more photogenic than me.

After this we left Slimbridge and headed for home. Once there we checked through the photos to see if we could find an image of the dowitcher and in doing so, discovered that there was a Eurasian Whimbrel in the Black-tailed Godwit flock that we didn't notice at the time. WQ total 18.
Eurasian Whimbrel arrowed on extreme left of picture
Extremely enlarged detail of the above picture

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