Saturday, 11 August 2018

Bowers Marsh : August 2018 : Stone Curlew

As a few early migrant Whinchats had been seen at Bowers Marsh I decided to give the site a look after work and hopefully see them.

I was initially going to go straight to the southern side of the lagoon to where the birds had been favouring but I decided on a qquick look from the main lagoon viewpoint at the double benches. I gave the wet areas a scan picking out a few Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and Common Sandpipers and then I picked up something odd on the more distant island, beyond the closest island, and around 300-400 metres away.

It was partially obscured but it looked like a heat hazed Stone Curlew. The more I looked the more I was convinced but I couldn't see the whole bird but then it stuck its head out from behind the vegetation and yep it was a Stone Curlew. This was big news for the SOG area birders with the last and only twitchable one back on 1998 so twenty years ago.

I rapidly composed a message on the local grapevine WhatsApp group and was about to send when I had a pang of doubt and went back to my scope, could it have been a wacky female Mallard sticking its head out and I was fooling myself, I still hadn't seen the bird out in the open. Whilst I looked at the spot the bird was it walked out and in all its Stone Curlewness.

I then sent the WhatsApps message. After about 5mins I was surprised at the lack of local birder respsonse so I looked at the message and realised, for some reason it hadn't been successfully sent so I tried again, still not joy. I tried several more times and still I couldn't get the news out. I performed the 1 o 1 trick of turning phone off and back on again, but still no joy. I could also not get the internet to work or retrieve any emails so it seemed like there was a network issue, of all the times......

I prayed that the phone signal would still be working so I started ringing local birders and thankfully I reached several to get the news out and soon they were on their way.

As the hours ticked by many local birders connected and with some adding it to the local lists.

It was last seen shortly after 9pm when several of us on the south side saw it flew to the fields near the barn and that was what we thought would be that.

All happy local birders.

Two days later it reappeared on the nearest island to the double benches where it spent all day pretty much in the same 10 square feet of vegetation but it did allow more birders to see it. At dusk I was the only birder there watching it as it fed on the muddy edges of the island.

Remarkably it was still present on the 11th August, today, in pretty much the exact same spot, and was twitched by a numbers of birders who needed it for their Essex lists. This species has been remarkably difficult to see in Essex with mostly singles being reported per year but never any twitchable.

A great bird at a great site and one that kick off a spell of good 'local' birds with Great White Egret and then Glossy Ibis being found. It was possible to see all three in a day and making it feel pretty much Mediterranean.

The attached images were the best that I could get given the range to the bird, light conditions and heat haze.

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