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Saturday, 15 December 2012

American Buff- bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir

Travelling home from work on Thursday 13th December just yards from the Tesco Gunton roundabout at 5.40pm on the A12 a Fox ran across the busy road from right to left disappearing into the trees on the western edge of Tesco car park. An early start this morning, Saturday 15th December and I was kindly given a lift by Morris B and we picked up Roy H near Morrison's at Beccles. The object of our quest, an American Buff- bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir, near London in Berkshire. Three and a quarter hours later, we drew through the gates of Yacht club there, paid a £2 day permit each and a twenty minute walk later, we aimed for the crowd gathered on the bank, there must have been around 120 birders all gathered in one spot, just past the jetty/ pier. Looking down on the grassy sides of the reservoir just feet away was the excellent American Buff- bellied Pipit . The bird was seen on the reservoir bank sides feeding on insects and midges around the green weed encrusted stones/ concrete that were here. The bird was constantly on the move feeding on these insects running back and forwards, rarely stopping. once it flew to the Pier gantry, perching at the top of the fence. Before it flew back to reservoir bank, the other side where I first saw it running towards me and past me, before it ran back again. It stopped at the edge of the water, it preened and was fully lit in the sun, rather than being in the usual shade. It was a distinctive Pipit, with grey brown upperparts and very distinctive buffy underparts. The buffy areas being particularly prevalent on the sides of the underparts with a noticeable whitish under-tail coverts area. The head had fine streaking on the crown there was a dark line above the eye. It shows a prominent off-white eye- ring, with just a hint of a cream supercilia "flare" behind the eye and a corresponding darker area in front of the eye. The mantle and back had fine streaking. The wing bars were cream- coloured, with broad but short streaking on the breast with them being more diffuse on the flanks/ breast sides. The legs were jet black. The bill showed a very pale orange buff colouration to the two- thirds part of the basal lower mandible. The bird was then seen feeding and running along the reservoir bank once more, a cracking bird and my second new bird for 2012. The pictures published alongside this post were taken in the shady conditions by the bank under the wall/ path circling the reservoir and it doesn't really convey how buffy the bird was on its underparts, which were really buffy. The upperparts also appeared less grey and more buff- grey in good light too. A Red- necked Grebe was by a Great Crested Grebe, it was on the far side of the reservoir, but it was so far away, all I could see was a slightly smaller Grebe than the GC Grebe, therefore rendering me with untickable views of what would been a very nice bird to see. I had last visited here just over 25 years ago following the Great Storm of 1987 where I had seen my first Sabine's Gull, an immature flying around this same part of the reservoir! Apparently there were 367 visiting birders at the reservoir today, which I'm told is a record crowd for a twitch in Berkshire. On the way back to Beccles along the A146 just after the roundabout we saw 4 single Golden Plovers in one field to the north of the road.

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