Spotted Crake – 140!

After a client cancelled this afternoon I decided to take a bit of time owing and headed down to Cossington Meadows. The bad weather of the past few days gave me a bit of hope of finding a scarce vagrant or two and maybe something to push me to the magic 140 species for the year in the Soar Valley.

I had wandered around Plover Meadows and the two juvenile Greenshank were still present. I met up with Dave Gray at Tern Pool and we checked out the few birds left as some halfwit was trying to tempt the local Canada Geese with maggots. He certainly was a Pork Pie short of a picnic! Five Wigeon now had been joined by six Shoveler but little else.

Dave and I switched to checking the Upper Marsh at Cossington Meadows looking for migrant waders. We had been watching from the first bit of ‘fence’ when I moved slightly left to get a view of areas of the pool that were obscured by tall vegetation.

I was just scanning the juncus and sedge at the back of the pool when the bird popped its head out from the vegetation, quickly turned and shot back into cover. What struck me instantly was the stubby pale yellow bill reddening at the base and beady dark eye on a pale face. I then quickly registered the white spangling on the crown and buff under tail coverts as it vanished. As I was checking this I called to Dave, ‘Spotted Crake! Fucking Spotted Crake!’

By now it had vanished so I couldn’t get Dave on it but quickly put his scope onto the spot. A few anxious minutes later it showed again just as briefly to both of us. It was high fives and handshakes on the find and then the realization this was my 140th species in the Soar Valley this year – my target.

Dave managed another good view as it dashed across a gap at 15.45. Birders soon started to arrive, Jez Robson followed swiftly by Roger Davis. The bird did not show again for the next hour and I had to leave passing Pete Fossey, Ben Croxtall and Allen Pocock as I left. Thankfully Dave relocated it at around 17.40 and it showed well to all present. I spoke to Dave and Ben by phone just to confirm that the bird did show reddening to the base of the bill – this would suggest a juvenile coming into 1W plumage.

Spotted Crake courtesy of David Gray

While we waited for it to show again we had a calling Willow Tit in the hedge and another singing Willow Warbler further away. A couple of nice looking Snipe also popped up on the marsh.

So there we are, I reached the total I didn’t really think I could get and we still have three months to go. How far can I push my total? Dave still has three birds on me, two of which I reckon I can claw back from Curlew, Black Tern and Tree Pipit, and I’m still hoping for a Redstart or Pied Fly and an outside shot – Honey Buzzard or a Harrier.

Spotted Crake courtesy of David Gray


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