Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pallas's Gropper

Today was a public holiday, so I determined that the first few hours of daylight would see me thrashing the patch in what might be the last gasp of spring migration birding.

Typically the number of migrants to be picked up this late was small, but it is always quality over quantity that counts this late in spring passage.  A look at lotus lake revealed no sign of either of the recent Indian Pond Herons - just a few Javans.

Once again the Ramble offered nothing - it seems that all of the trees in half of this area have died - they have no foliage on them and I suspect that some change in the water table has killed their root systems. The other half od the ramble is now filled with thick, damp scrub which should host some quality sculkers, but never seems to deliver.

Whilst walking towards "The Edge" I noted that an old bunker in the middle of a fairway (from the days when the park was a golf course) has now filled with a reasonable amount of cover.  It is an area I walk past regularly, but never bother looking at.  This morning however I took one look at it, and thought to myself - "If that was on Portland Bill, it would eventually host a White-throated Robin" ie. it's worth a quick check! No sooner had I got to the end of the bunker than I saw a brown passerine flick low across a gap in the vegetation.  I had no idea what it was - the view had been in my peripheral vision - but it "felt" interesting, and the word "locustella" immediately crossed my mind.  I sat down and waited...and nothing appeared.  If it was something unexceptional it would be Plain Prinia, and it would be out of that tiny patch of cover or would start calling, within couple of minutes.  The fact that nothing came out made me suspicious that what ever it was was an interesting skulker. After waiting a few more minutes of nothing I decided to use my Audubon bird call to squeak it out, and as soon as I stopped squeaking I saw a bird flick at the back of the bunker - it looked big, possibly Rubythroat-sized, and my mind momentarily considered that possibility before the bird broke cover  did a couple of panicked  mid-air circuits looking for an escape route.  I only saw it with the naked eye but it was clearly a large warbler with a rounded tail and some streaking - presumably a "PG Tips".  The bird headed away and I lost it against a line of trees, but I figured it would return to the same area if given some space, so I made a wide circuite of the trees where i had lost it, heading back to the bunker via two other small areas of cover just in case it had gone for those.  Once back at the bunker I picked up a soft tacking call and then the bird flew out again, this time giving better, more prolonged flight views through binoculars, confirming the ID as a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler.

Further on I picked up two separate Dark-sided Flycatchers, a new Indian Cuckoo (the second, or possibly third of the spring), a group of approximately 10 Chinese Pond Herons (presumably north bound migrants) and an elusive Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler that refused to respond to playback.

Dark-sided Flycatcher - bird 1

Dark-sided Flycatcher - bird 2

Indian Cuckoo

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