Birds, birds, birds

Just a little catch-up of last week’s birding action. I went for a walk on the Isle of Sheppey, in the Thames estuary. It’s a transitional time of year: still plenty of wintering ducks and geese — some lovely brent geese still apparently unable to face flying back to the high arctic to breed, as well as white-fronted goose, wigeon, gadwall, teal and so on — but the skylarks were singing, and I saw wheatear and my first swallows of the year. And the lapwings were making those extraordinary calls which are just about my favourite noise in the world.

Also marsh harrier, little egret, linnet, meadow pipit, curlew, oystercatcher, redshank… and two really good sightings. The more visually stunning of the two was a great view of a pair of bearded tits, which are gorgeous birds and not the easiest to see well. But the other one was probably the closest thing to a proper rarity I’ve ever found for myself in the UK: black winged stilt.

That’s not actually my photo but it may well be my bird: it turned up the following day at Rainham Marshes, about 30 miles west of where I saw it. And I have to admit I didn’t see it as well as that: it was quite a long way away and I didn’t have my scope with me. Still, it’s a distinctive bird which I’ve seen before in the Mediterranean, and I recognised it immediately.

It’s not an extraordinarily rare visitor to the UK — typically about 5 records per year —  and it’s not actually a British tick for me; I saw the offspring of a pair that bred in Norfolk back in 1987. But still, by my standards as a casual birder, a pretty good sighting.

» Black-Winged Stilt is from Flickr and is © Hawkeye2011.

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