Monday, 4 October 2021

Pitsford Water :: 02 October 2021

The forecast was for rain from late breakfast time and so I decided that I'd try a birding trip on Sunday morning. A relaxed morning working on the laptop was interrupted at 10.35am by a message on the Northants Birds News WhatsApp group – the post reported that a Leach's Petrel had been found at Pitsford Water at 10.25, just north of the causeway and off the Fishing Lodge.

Reading the Where to Find Guide written by Lee Evans, this oceanic seabird breeds only on the Northern Isles with an estimated population of at least 10,000 pairs nesting annually. It is a regular autumn migrant off the coasts of West Scotland, NW England, Wales and SW England, and appears in much smaller numbers off NE and SE England and East Anglia. Peak passage is between late September and early November, with small numbers occasionally appearing in winter, following Atlantic storms. Leach's Petrels are particularly vulnerable to winds more than their normal flight speed and in autumn, when many are in an advanced state of moult, they can be blown about like autumn leaves. This can often lead to many birds, sometimes hundreds, being blown inland. This was the only reported inland bird that day that I am aware of.

Reports indicated that the Leach's Petrel was being regularly harassed by gc grebes / coot and had been doing short flights but was still in same area at 10.47am. By 11.40am it was still being regularly spooked but it was still showing well from causeway. I thought that it was showing signs of staying and decided that I might go over the lunchtime period - I found that her indoors had put herself back in bed and decided that sneaking off wasn't appropriate and delayed. After lunch and having established that my wife had been suffering from a migraine (and that it had improved), by 2.15pm I was in the car and heading for Pitsford (just under an hour’s drive).

I arrived and drove across the causeway, finding two birders with scopes at the car park end. I parked the car, paid the fee, put on my boots, and made my way over - someone had said how wet everyone had been getting and so I took an umbrella. The two birders informed me that the bird had been showing, but distant, and had moved out of sight round to Scaldwell Bay - I wasn't sure why they were still positioned here but found one apparently hadn't yet put any money in the meter and the other was just off to purchase a permit to enter the site. I put up my brolly and set out.

I made my way along and caught sight of a snipe on the wing, but it was not a great photo on review - the light was poor, and the rain was falling. Fortunately I'd had the forethought to protect my camera and lens with a waterproof cover. Just before I reached the Bird Club Hide a handful of birders were set with scopes and had the bird in their sights - it was on the water and would have been tricky to pick out amongst the other birds. But there it was!

The chap that had been purchasing a permit turned up and announced that this was his bogey bird, and he was so glad to have seen it. He didn't stay long as he had promised to be home for dinner - in Manchester! After about half an hour I made for the hide and found a couple of people in there and continued to watch the bird largely on the water but very regularly put up by great crested grebes, coot and gulls. The great crested grebes seemed the most upset by its presence and would dive then come up under of just beside the bird sending it up into the air. I am confused why they were so disturbed by such a diminutive bird and wouldn't just let it be.

Happy with my encounter I headed home to dry off. A lifer for me.

Leach's petrel
Leach's petrel
Leach's petrel
Leach's petrel

1 comment: