Today was a case in point. It was miserable weather-wise early this morning, with Arctic winds creating biting cold air, more February than late April. A walk around the patch produced three Curlew at the back of Water Colour Lagoon 1, found by Gordon Hay, and plenty of hirundines – at least 30 House Martin to go with 20-plus Swallow and a few Sand Martin.
But there was little else to distract from the cold hands after a couple of hours, so feeling freezer chilled and wet I decided to venture elsewhere.
For some reason, only known to me, I thought a seawatch might prove worthwhile, so I headed for Seaford on the Sussex coast, hoping to see some skuas fly past. However, once I got there I realised I'd made a fundamental mistake. The Channel was calm, due to the land mass that is Britain acting as a wind-break to the northerly winds, and apart from around 15 Common Scoter on the water, all was quite.
What was I thinking? It was an obvious and complete waste of time! What I should have done was head to Staines Reservoir for a Grey Phalarope, found by local birder Dominic Pia first thing, and plenty of seabirds and spring migrants.
It was all happening up at the reservoir, a site I hadn't been to since summer of last year, so I was long overdue a visit. I only stayed at Seaford for about 20 minutes before setting off back past Redhill and on to the M25.
What an idiot. The morning hadn't been a great success, having spent more time in the bloody car than out looking at birds. One day I will learn...
But never mind. By timing my visit to Staines later in the morning my misfortune turned out to be my reward.
The water on the north basin, in particular, was rougher than the Channel had been earlier and there was plenty of activity. This was more like it!
|The Grey Phalarope was distant but plumage could be seen clearly
(though not from this image!)
There were plenty of Common Tern and a few Arctic Tern, and a drake and female Scaup appeared on the north basin.
Our group were looking at these when someone shouted out "40 Arctic Tern have just flown in!".
I thought he was joking, but he wasn't.
|56 of the 60+ Arctic Tern as they flew around the north basin
|Arctic Tern feeding on the north basin
|An Arctic Tern and a pair of Scaup (one probable female hybrid) on the north basin
And they stayed the whole time I was there. Had I arrived earlier in the morning I would have seen a Greenshank, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a handful of Arctic Tern, but never anything like this. I wouldn't have swapped it for anything.
In among the Terns, a first-summer Little Gull joined in the feed. The visit to Staines turned out to be very satisfying, with two Whimbrel and at least five Yellow Wagtail and two White Wagtail to add to the list.
|Two Yellow Wagtail on the north basin
|A Category C Barnacle Goose last Sunday was a bit of a surprise
|The Reed Bunting at Water Colour Lagoons are particularly showy individuals
|Holmethorpe's third Redstart of the spring
|A Mute Swan looks on as two of the three Curlew feed on the
flooded area at the back of Water Colour Lagoon 1