SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER
It was late morning and whilst watching a Keyhaven Marshes vagrant Semipalmated Sandpiper at just a few yards that I receive a call informing me of a SPOTTED CRAKE at WILSTONE RESERVOIR. Typical - only yesterday Mike Campbell and I had commented at how good the reservoir looks for this species at the moment. But hey-ho, local Super-hero Steve Rodwell was in town and in usual top form, espying the bird as it made a fleeting attempt at stardom as he was 'scoping the reed fringe from the jetty. Steve was pretty convinced from his initial brief view but waited until he got better views before informing others and setting off a twitch - after all, it was some 17 years since the last Spotted Crake had graced the reservoirs.
Once confirmed, Steve had immediately got the news out to Dave Bilcock and within the hour, Dave, Mike C, Francis and other immediate locals had connected. The bird continued to show intermittently on about half a dozen occasions until 1330 hours but then disappeared. I arrived on site just after 1400 hours, the crowd by then swollen to at least 24 individuals. Despite a number of claims, the only birds at the reed fringe were 4 Water Rails (including 3 juveniles), a Common Snipe and some 17 Moorhens, as well as 3 different COMMON KINGFISHERS, 14 Western Reed Warblers and 6 Sedge Warblers.
I sat down on the East Bank expecting a long vigil, after all most crakes are semi-crepuscular and show best as the light begins to fade. An hour went by and nothing but just as the second was about to pass, Graham Smith got on to a small bird in the reeds and it was it. It came out of the reeds and on to the margin and showed well then on and off until at least 1730 hours, sadly at great distance from the bank - at 227 yards. I tried numerous times to get a record shot but it was impossible, the bird being just too small and far away. Throughout it favoured a narrow muddy fringe, about half way along the reeds as you view from the bank or jetty. Although quite a few observers departed without seeing it, perhaps 45 did connect, including some as far afield as Oxfordshire and East Hertfordshire.
Whilst waiting for the crake to appear, other species encountered included 2 Chinese Water Deer (munching emergent vegetation along the margin) and the 2 long-staying GARGANEYS (both together again), as well as the family party of 4 HOBBIES. A juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT commuted between the Drayton Bank and the mud by the overflow in the NW corner, some 12 Little Egrets were about, 5 Common Snipes and a migrant Lesser Whitethroat in the north hedgerow. Most unexpected was a fine and very fresh-plumaged juvenile OSPREY that flew quickly SSE fairly low across the reservoir.