Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sharp Tailed Sandpiper

Everything was set and we were ready to go to Northumberland for the Greater Yellowlegs, so what were we doing at Chew Valley south of Bristol?
A report late on Thursday of a juvenile Sharp Tailed Sandpiper at Blagdon Lakes made me change the plans at the last minute. There have been a few Sharp Tails in the last couple of decades, but I have not been able to get to any, and this was the first juvenile since 1974. Also, there is a suspicion that the Yellowlegs may over winter so we headed off to Bristol yesterday.
Bad news from Blagdon as we were approaching Bristol-no sign by 0800am, so we diverted to Herriot's Bridge at Chew as there were at least some good birds there. Five minutes before we got there the pager said the Sharp Tailed was at Herriot's Bridge!
Leapt out of the car to be told it was lost from view behind a reed bed, at a distance of a couple of hundred yards, so we set up and waited. We were virtually the first to arrive, but soon the lay byes filled up. Did not take long to locate the two Long Billed Dowitchers feeding at the water's edge, among large numbers of Lapwing and Teal. Two Bewick's Swans were nice.
 A small flock of Dunlin appeared far to the right, almost hidden by reeds and I noticed a slightly larger, darker reddish bird, but could not get much on it. However those with better views  were able to confirm it as the Sharp Tailed. Eventually it came out and sat in among the tree stumps with the Dunlin. Lighting was terrible but we were able to see all the diagnostic features. Unfortunately the birds were flighty and were soon off. The Sandpiper stood out in the flying Dunlin flock by virtue of it's larger size and darker plumage. A much smaller bird was also seen-a Little Stint.
 The birds repeated this routine over the next couple of hours and eventually we got clear views in better light. The Dowitchers also appeared in the same area though I never got to see all three together.
 In between watching the Sandpiper I went over to the south side where I managed to get fair views of the Spotted Sandpiper on the causeway and in flight.
 Other decent birds included Peregrine, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser, calling Water Rail and Cetti's Warblers.

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