Friday, 14 June 2013

Spooner and tiger

Bonus bird: Eurasian Spoonbill. Photo per Howard Vaughan/ELBF
This is the lowest point of the low season for gulls - everything breeding elsewhere, no migration, and too early for interesting juvenile birds to start appearing. So with all that in mind, I decided to head to the Thames this morning to do some gulling at my study site - nothing ventured etc. First, to head off what seemed like impending larid disappointment, I called in at Wennington Marshes just west of Rainham for a quick scanning session from the Mound. Having ensured that none of the several hundred swifts on view had any interesting white patches or other physical deviations from the norm, I started scanning eastwards across Rainham RSPB reserve. At about 08:20, I picked up a large white bird arriving from the south and losing height fast - Spoonbill! Circling downwards on rigid rather than bowed, egret-like wings, and with outstretched neck and unfeasibly long black bill, there was no mistaking it even at this considerable range. It then vanished from view, but while searching I also managed to pick up an adult male Marsh Harrier. After calling Howard Vaughan and Martin Holm in the reserve centre the Spoonbill was relocated and enjoyed by quite a few birders: I never did get to see it again because it continued its journey north at 12:05, while I was still gulling.

Cream-spot Tiger moth sheltering on the car ...
Before that, however, while checking the car I was amazed to discover a brightly marked moth hiding under the back edge of the bonnet. It had got in just below the windscreen wipers and was presumably sheltering from the wind, and perhaps also enjoying the warmth from the engine. I'm not an active moth-er but instantly recognised it as a tiger moth; from the description I gave Howard over the phone he suggested Cream-spot Tiger, and on checking the field guide back home later on that's exactly what it appears to be. I took these two images with an iPhone 4S - not for the first time, I'm quite impressed with the detail provided by the built-in camera (these shots are cropped to a width of 800 pixels)..

... and released on a nearby verge.
After that excitement it was time for gulls, and the session did indeed prove worthwhile - full details in the next post.

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