A good morning at Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... Sunday 18th April 2010

Setting the alarm clock for 5 a.m., I was at the local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits by 5.45 a.m.
A slight frost was on the ground and there was mist over the pits to begin with, but both the frost and the mist soon disappeared. Conditions seemed good, as the very slight breeze seem to be coming from the south. Had anything dropped in overnight?

It was not long before I was looking at a first-summer male Wheatear in the horse paddocks at Mercers Farm. A phone call to Gordon Hay soon had him watching it alongside me. Gordon then received a call from Ian Kehl who was at Mercers Lake where he had been watching a Common Sandpiper, the first at Holmethorpe this year.

Ian decided to join us and take a look at the Wheatear as he needed it for his local year list. We moved round to the side of the horse paddocks to get a better view of the bird, as it had been directly in line with the low sun and was pretty much silhouetted. From our new viewpoint, the bird was in a much better position to view and I managed a couple of distant shots before the bird flew off over the hedge to the fields.

We headed back to Mercers Lake for the Common Sandpiper but we could not relocate it. Not to worry, there will be more.

A Shelduck headed west over Mercers Lake and, when we arrived at Spynes Mere, four Lesser Whitethroats, at least 5 Common Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers and 25+ Sand Martins were in the area.

We noticed four ducks flying in and soon identified them as being two pairs of Mandarins. They seem to land on a tree by Mercers Farm but we could not find them again and presume that they dropped into the brook nearby.

Gordon scanned the fields and soon picked up what was probably the same Wheatear we had seen previously but, as it was very distant, it was difficult to be sure.

Other birds of note included at least seven Chiffchaffs and twelve Blackcaps, five Skylarks and three Yellowhammers, three Bullfinches, an Egyptian Goose, three Lapwings, a Green Sandpiper and five Common Snipe, three Rooks and two Little Owls together in the same tree.

After I had decided to head home, Ian located a Little Egret so, all in all, not a bad morning’s birding.

Several reports of a Bonaparte's Gull at Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex today had me tempted to make the trip but the thought of masses of birders lined up to twitch it brought me back to reality.


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