Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bizarre Birding in Sawbridgeworth

The strangeness started as soon as I got out of the car. I thought someone had their radio on – unsociable at 8:30 on a Sunday morning – but as I entered the fields south of Sawbridgeworth it became obvious the noise was on a different scale – possibly Harlow town Park about 5 miles away across the Stort Valley, or possibly here.

So as Marvin Gaye “What’s Going on?” echoed round the fields I picked up a small flock of Long-Tailed Tits. I searched for Sylvia warblers but apart from one in the bottom of a bush drew a blank. A couple of Bullfinches skulked in a bush and a Kestrel flew through as Dusty Springfield sang “Son of a Preacher Man”, and then I struggled for birds and songs – possibly a Kingfisher calling, and was that Sly and the Family Stone?

Stevie Wonder was singing Superstition as I crossed the river, and then the mood changed to Jazz as I went up the hill to view SLRS. I bumped into Kevin on his bike, and as Miles Davis’ trumpet rang out round the fields a Meadow Pipit flew south, and we saw family parties of Yellowhammers, more Bullfinches, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, brownish Willow-Chiff and a GS and Green Woodpecker. SLRS had 4 Snipe, 2 Lapwing, and a couple of Teal, and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”.

Another mood change. The small birds were kicking up a commotion, and as the ground shook to Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” a dark shape slipped out of the hedgerow with a bird in its claws – my instinct was Hobby.

As I headed for home someone turned the sound off at this time, and a total of four Chiffs were in the willows by the river. One singing, one skulking, and two “hoeet”ing.

I thought the bizarreness would stop there, but mid afternoon Mrs Dipper called for an emergency chocolate run to Waitrose in Bishop’s Stortford. On the way back I stopped at the large recently ploughed field at Trimm/s Green/Allen’s Green, a local highpoint with views over Stansted Airport . Mike had been earlier and seen good numbers of Lapwing, Carrion Crows, and various other birds. I saw most of that through the heat haze, and then a wader flying around; notions of Golden Plover were dispelled by the enormous white wing bars. It didn’t settle, was chased by Lapwings, and eventually flew up towards me to confirm as a Black-Tailed Godwit, then flew off north. Bizarre.

** evening update ** Kevin informs me that the music was from an all-nighter takin place in an overgrown bomb-hole slightly south of the birding site. Kevin's source, an unwashed crusty emerging from under a bush, says this happens every September.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Well written and amusing account of a birding day. Couldn't improve on your bird list but think I may be able to suggest a few better tunes! Amazing to get solitary godwit, but it is now thought that there is a migratory route that runs from the Wash to the south coast in a roughly SSW direction. Suspect Thorley Wash and environs is too low for most vis mig. However, good numbers of hirundines over the last fortnight. Shall be down on Spellbrook bridge for an hour or so this evening as this colder snap may encourage a little more movement. Could be first outing for a while that involves a flask of soup/coffee as opposed to the usual bottle of chilled cider.
Moving house in a couple of weeks; out to Hadham Ford. This may offer more species in flyovers due to the local hills. Already had autumnal wheatear on the golf course between Hadham Ford and Much Hadham, so will be well worth developing a new patch in time for next Spring.