Monday, September 11, 2006

Peep Show

I was just about to set off for Goldcliff on Saturday lunchtime, when a text from Tim warned me that the semipalmated sandpiper was moving away with the receding tide. I was left with the choice of an evening visit later in the day, or an early morning trip. I concluded that a Sunday morning visit would be best. I'd have better light, a high-tide and more hours to spend. In the end, the bird turned up again on Saturday, so I was hopeful of a life tick on Sunday. I arrived at 7:00am on Sunday, dismayed to find the first pool completely flooded, and a handful of birders standing on platform 3. I just got there in time to secure a viewing position before the crowds arrived. Four little stints were soon picked out along with a couple of curlew sandpipers. After about twenty minutes, a birder called that he was on our target. Further scrutiny revealed however, that it was a fifth little stint just arrived from the shoreline. Four avocets circled overhead, knots arrived in good numbers along with a third curlew sandpiper, dunlins and a large flock of curlews. We remained optimistic, given the continued arrival of birds. A group of eight and a lone yellow wagtail flew through along with a tree pipit and green woodpecker. The morning started to drag on however, as our bird was nowhere to be seen. It started to become a question of tick the birder, as people began to come and go. Many unable to get on platform 3 and going to the seawall instead. It was clear that many of these birders had actually seen the bird already and were coming for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th look. These included the finder and one wise man. Chatting with a few people there, it seems there is a slight grain of doubt about the identity of this bird. Its almost certainly a semipalmated sandpiper, but showing a few anomalous characterstics. Unfortunately, in three hours, I never got the chance to see for myself. I was consoled that at least it was just my first trip, as others were dipping for the 2nd or 3rd time. I also managed three year ticks - little stint, curlew sandpiper and yellow wagtail. Okay, so the peep didn't show, but that's not a snappy title for a blog entry.

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