There's been a bit of a minor influx of Black-winged Stilts into the UK recently and as we've never seen one we were keen followers of the news of where they were appearing,
Back on Friday 30th March one turned up in County Wexford, well our twitching hasn't got to the extent where we'll travel to Ireland to see a bird (yet!). This bird was reported daily up to Tuesday 10th April. On Friday 6th April one was reported on the Isle of Wight, but never seen again. Then on Tuesday 10th April one at Chew Valley Lake, Somerset which migrated fifty miles south overnight to Radipole Lake in Dorset where it remained for seven days. On Thursday 12th April one at Standlake Common in Oxfordshire which moved overnight to Rutland Water, Leicestershire. This roaming bird then moved on to Willow Tree Fen NR, Lincolnshire on Saturday 14th April 2012 remaining until Thursday 19th April 2012 when it relocated to Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire and at the time of writing is still there.
Thursday 19th April two Black-winged Stilts were found together in the West Midlands at Clayhanger Marsh on Friday 20th April they relocated to Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire, but only remained for one day (sorry Gladders). Then the latest sighting on Wednesday 25th April was three new Black-winged Stilts arrived at Exminster Marshes (Devon).where again at the time of writing they're still there.
So with all these sightings in England why have we not seen one yet? Well we've been up in Scotland, so travelling back on the train yesterday we resolved that if the Frampton Marsh bird was still there (a mere 98 miles from home) we'd head up with fingers crossed that it'd remain for another day.
Well the forecast wasn't great. If you're in the wrong place you're going to get very wet and it's a wee bit windy. We arrived before the visitor centre opened, I had a quick wander, but no sign of the bird and none of the other birders had seen it. When the centre opened the warden hadn't seen it either, but told us where it had been yesterday, but reckoned in this wind it'd be lying low today.
Okay it wasn't going to be easy to find, we got kitted up and went for a wander. First stop was the Reedbed Hide, it was empty, never a good sign when looking for a rare bird. We had good views of Avocets on the islands in front of us, but no sign of the Stilt. A further scan round with the telescope and there was this weird black-backed gull, hold on, no it was the Stilt, but it was distant and it was walking round behind an island and before Mrs RCB could locate it it'd disappeared from sight.
But then it re-appeared, hung around the edge of the island in the lee of the wind and gave excellent if distant views. Eventually we moved on and explored the rest of the reserve. Frampton Marsh is a fairly "new" reserve, although the farmland has been owned by the RSPB for a while it's only over the last four or five years the reserve has been "manufactured", and a rather good job they've done too.
A major new extension to this coastal wetland reserve includes a reedbed, large freshwater scrapes and wet grassland. New facilities include a visitor centre with toilets, plus three hides - two with 360-degree views - and over 3 km of new footpaths to explore. In the RSPB's words "Frampton Marsh is at the leading edge of visitor and habitat nature conservation planning. We have designed every aspect of the new habitats and facilities to maximise the value for wildlife and the opportunities for visitors. Ideally positioned between Norfolk and the Midlands, a visit will be well rewarded."
Well our rewards included Reed Bunting, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet, Common Tern, Goldeneye, Scaup, Ruff, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Black-tailed Godwit and of course Black-winged Stilt. Superb.