Thursday, 28 June 2012

Little Swift

Sunday 24th June 2012

Negative news (or lack of news, many birders probably otherwise engaged with Euro 2012) on Saturday night meant prospects of catching up with the New Brighton Little Swift on Sunday looked uncertain.

Martyn and I hatched a plan with options; a fairly early start (6.00am) to the day in Staffs with a strategic exit route up to Merseyside via the M6 should news of the Little Swift break.

We began at Gailey. Every time I’ve been there lately it tends to pee it down and this was no exception to that rule. Some Swift movement going on with 100+ and also smaller numbers of House Martin. Also 5 x Common Tern, Pochard, Little Grebe, Reed Bunting and a Blackcap (h).

A walk across the causeway then resulted in a major soaking. Negative news on the Swift received. Change of tack, Blithfield. There, we would find refuge from the rain at least, until it cleared.

Sitting in the hide at Tad Bay we noticed an unusually large number of Common Terns for this time of the year, 31 in this bay alone. Many of these possibly failed breeders, the high water levels this year no doubt resulting in a disappointing breeding year for many of our common species. Also 2 Oystercatcher, Shoveler and again a huge number of Swifts. Talking of Swifts, Martyn then received a pager message regarding the Little Swift. It was back and we were headed Scouseside.

The drive north went smoothly, but I was worried by messages of no news. In just under two hours we were in New Brighton and by this time the birders present had managed to relocate the Little Swift above the residential streets around St George’s Mount.

Although it wasn’t on view upon our arrival we didn’t have long to wait. There was a number of Common Swifts doing a feeding circuit and the Little Swift would appear every 10-15 minutes or so.

It was a very distinctive bird and could be picked out from the Common Swift with ease once you had got your eye in. Aside from the extensive white rump (which could only be seen in the right light) the bird was different from Common Swift in a number of ways. The easiest way to pick it out was by its tail, which was short and square-edged. Its flight was a little more fluttery than Swift too.

I found this bird an absolute joy to observe and we only took a short Morrison’s sarnie break for lunch then went back for seconds rather than moving on. A friendly and well-behaved twitch too, well apart from a few cobra-drinkers on a street corner. Genuinely interested and friendly locals here too. This was the second time I've twitched a rare Swift in Merseyside, the first being the Pallid Swift just across the river at Seaforth in 2009.

Images of Little Swift - courtesy of Martyn Yapp

Also during our visit we noted (of course) many Common Swift, House Martin, 2 Curlew over and Blackcap (h). A very brief stop along the front and we saw Ringed Plover, 5 Turnstone, Linnet and many Terns out at sea.

On a sad note, a very poorly seal was on the front and had attracted the attention of members of the public, some who were stroking it and thought it was just sleeping and would be fine. I'm sorry to tell you this but...

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