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Biggest Twitch
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A Day on the Dee with a mega bird

We picked up James at RSPB Conwy and headed east, picking up another Alan on the way to the Dee Estuary. We were soon at Burton Marsh overlooking the vast sea of grass and marsh.

Burton Marsh January

We had come here to look for a very rare bird indeed, an American Buff-bellied Pipit. A friend of ours, bird photographer, Pete Wheeler was on the edge of the road with camera trained on the tideline below him, a good sign. We carefully got out, making sure not to make a noise, and crept along the lane towards Pete. We stopped well short and scanned the tideline, plenty of Meadow Pipits, then out popped the Buff-bellied Pipit!

Buff bellied Pipit 6

The mega rarity was feeding amongst the debris left from the huge tidal surge in December that had deposited tons of grass and weed along the edge of the road boardering the marsh. There are only a handful of records of this Yank pipit in the UK and most of the few there have been have been on far flung islands, so a real treat to have one here on the Dee Estuary.

Buff bellied Pipit 3

The pipit was often hidden to view as it walked through the tide line grasses with a flock of Meadow Pipits - nice for comparison. The bird was pretty close and we soaked up the views.

Buff bellied Pipit 4

Buff bellied Pipit 5

As we stood quietly watching the pipit a car drew up right behind Pete who was still aiming his camera at the Buff-bellied Pipit right below him. We were shocked and amazed when a birder jumped out, just feet from Pete, and slammed his door shut behind him! Guess what? Yes, your right, every bird in the whole area flew up in fright! The pipit was gone.

Pete had a few choice words with Mr door slammer but the damage was done. More birders arrived and were dismayed to hear the sorry tale. We helped the new arrivals to try and relocate the bird but it was no-where to be seen.

We walked further north alongside the marsh, keeping a sharp eye-out for the pipit. We soon located a Siberian Chiffchaff - another great bird - feeding by the path, often on the ground or on the fence line. As we watched it was joined by a second bird, one was nearly run over by Postman Pat as he drove along the lane!

Siberian Chiffchaff 1

Siberian Chiffchaff 2

Out on the marsh we watched a Hen Harrier quartering the grassland in the distance and a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese lifted off as a light aircraft flew over the estuary, marvellous sight and sound. Back at the car the pipit had been relocated thankfully and we enjoyed more views of the vagrant.

We then headed for the nearby RSPB Burton Mere Wetland Reserve. Plenty of birds here and we enjoyed great views of Black-tailed Godwits, Common Snipe and Golden Plover. A Merlin was watched perched on a fence post and we enjoyed good views through the scopes. A distant flock of Whooper Swans held one Bewick's Swan amongst them, and Mute Swans and a Black Swan!

We headed north to Parkgate and a cafe for lunch, we were just about to go into the cafe when Alan spotted a Great white Egret! Quick back to the car and grab the scope! This towering egret was out on the marsh and we admired the snake like neck and yellow bill. Back to the cafe for a welcome lunch, we had a window seat overlooking the marsh so could keep birding while eating, perfect.

After lunch we scanned Parkgate Marsh and had more good views of the Great white Egret and lots of Little Egrets. Raptors were well represented with at least two Hen Harriers over the vast marsh, one bird passing nice and close giving superb views. Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel and Buzzard were out on the marsh. More Pink-footed Geese were on the move as the tide rose in the distance and a mixed flock of Linnets and Goldfinch fed just below us.

We popped back into Burton Mere Wetlands and enjoyed prolonged views of a Hen Harrier hunting over the marsh in front of the reception hide. We also added Little Grebe, Bullfinch and Great-spotted Woodpecker to our great day list.

A short drive took us to a position where we could view that swan flock from much closer. We had great views of Whooper, Mute and Black Swan but where was the Bewick's? Had we imagined it? It had been a long way away and now we were pretty close in good light using top Leica telescopes! Then just as we were about to scrub Bewick's Swan off our list, Alan picked it out hiding behind a larger Whooper! Whew! Once picked out it was clearly smaller than the Whoopers and the distinctive clean cut yellow bill pattern was easily seen.

We had enjoyed a wonderful day with brilliant birds, great weather and great company! We look forward to enjoying more birds with James and Alan soon.

To arrange your day out simply drop us a line...

We would love to share brilliant birds with you.


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