Saturday 25 October 2014

Semipalmated Sandpiper?

Checking the bird sightings page on Sunday (19th) and news of a semipalmated sandpiper on the River Plym had me missing lunch to leave work early on the 20th to go and have a look for it. I checked Birdguides on arriving home and it had been reported that afternoon and so I caught the bus out to Blagdons boatyard to be met with an assortment of birders with telescopes and cameras and news that the bird had flown upriver 5 minutes earlier - bugger!

There were a few familiar faces in the crowd but it made me realise again how much I hate twitches and so I headed upriver to Blagdons Meadow for a better view of the River where a birder was intently watching the shoreline. A group of birders were heading towards him and as I approached I heard and then saw a ringed plover with a smaller wader heading off downriver - double bugger!

I walked back down to the Boatyard where the bird was roosting with 2 ringed plover and 2 turnstone. It was partly hidden amongst the rocks and only occassionally did it show its head from under its wing but eventually it woke up and ran around before totally disappearing amongst the rocks as the light faded and the rain began to fall.

It was very stint like, appearing quite grey but more rufous when the sun shone through the clouds, and it lacked the white v marks on its back of a little stint. But was it a semipalmated sandpiper? With the poor light, distance and my basic telescope I couldn't make out much plumage detail but I listened intently to the nearby birders with big telescopes as they argued it was a semipalmated and not a western sandpiper. I bowed to their superior knowledge and optics but there was no mention of its webbed feet, something I could not see with my basic telescope, but photos eventually emerged of unwebbed feet indicating it was indeed a little stint and not a semipalmated sandpiper. Never mind, I have seen semipalmated sandpiper at Minsmere in Suffolk in 1986 but I have never seen a little stint in Plymouth! It just goes to show that there is nowt as strange as birding (and nowt as strange as birders!).

The Controversial Little Stint, River Plym - photo courtesy of Devon Birds Website

After all the excitement it was off to Bude for the day with the Outlaws on the 22nd to help put the caravan away for the winter. It was cool and cloudy and breezey but we cracked on and got the jobs done, giving me time for a quick look at nearby Maer Lake. There were 10 lapwings and 2 black tailed godwits around the Lake with curlew, teal, wigeon, mallard, moorhen, a Canada goose and a little egret. The birds were a little twitchy, especially the lapwing and curlew and eventually I saw the cause, a very smart juvenile/female merlin which flew over with a small bird in its talons before it swooped in to a hedgerow and out of sight to eat its catch. The only other bird of note was a hovering kestrel and the toilet blocks at the caravan site held 2 plume moths and a dead lunar underwing.

Dead Lunar Underwing, Bude

And I have got my repaired camera back, luckily it only cost £20 but I must start being more careful with my photographic equipment.

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