Sunday, 29 January 2012

Spotted Sandpiper hunting

This was my 4th attempt at a Spotted Sandpiper, in my 3rd county. After dipping twice on the Plym bird in Devon and once on the Chew Valley Lake bird in Somerset, I thought I’d give the Lyme Regis bird in Dorset a go.
End of The Cobb. Small spots on the right are Purple Sandpiper
At about 11am I started on The Cobb as that seems to be where it hangs out. The tide was quite high & on it’s way out.  There were a couple of birders on the end of The Cobb looking at the rocks, but unfortunately all they had were 11 Purple Sandpipers. I say unfortunately, but they were actually rather nice: I needed them for my Year List, they were quite close so we had great views & I’ve never seen more than 5 together before. I was hopeful that the Spotted Sandpiper was just having a snooze in the rocks somewhere & that it would pop up at any minute. It didn’t.

After about 45 mins, I decided to scan the rocks by the outfall of the River Lim, which is another place it’s been seen. It was a long way across the bay, but I could see birds moving on the rocks. They looked like they could be more Purple Sandpiper but I couldn’t be sure & was one of them bobbing?

Rocks near the River Lim outlet

I walked around to the rocks & had a good look from all angles. I found 4 Purple Sandpipers, but not the missing Spotted one. The other birders who had also walked around from The Cobb decided to go looking for Wood Lark near Seaton & the Ring-necked Ducks at Chard Junction. I decided to keep trying for a bit longer. 

View back down The Cobb
Back to The Cobb for another try. Still no luck, so I headed back to the car park where Simon (my patient husband) & Vera (our lovely Labrador) were waiting. Just as we were about to drive out, I got a text from Mary (my helpful birding friend in Switzerland) to say that the sandpiper had just that minute appeared on Birdguides, and was apparently on the shore near  The Cobb NOW.  I was 2 minutes away & hoofed it back round there, but not only was there no bird, there wasn’t even a birdwatcher. Very odd. Still, it was worth a bit more effort as it had been seen, so I gave it another half hour before going back to the car park for a much needed sandwich & mug of tea.

Now I had to decide whether to give up & go for the Ring-necked Duck half an hour away, or persevere with the sandpiper. I decided to have another quick look, once up The Cobb, once to the River Lim, then head North. The tide had now gone out quite a way so there was more shore to check. Nothing on The Cobb, not even a Purple sandpiper, so I headed back to the Lim. I bumped into the 2 birders from earlier....they had been at Chard Junction unable to find the ducks, saw that the Sandpiper had been seen via Birdguides & came back. They headed for The Cobb whilst I continued to the River where there were just a bunch of Ferral Pigeons.

The sandpiper was on the first of the narrow spits
 I scanned the spits of rock that had emerged further to the East & could see what looked like Purple Sandpiper scurrying about. I’d been put off trying for the duck so thought I’d take a look. I walked to the end of the promenade at East Beach & started scanning........I found 15 Purple Sandpipers, a Curlew & a couple of Oystercatchers. A couple of chaps arrived with a scope & I directed them to the Purple Sand. Then as I rescanned them for the umpteenth time I saw a much paler bird.....bobbing! The other chaps found it simultaneously....and we checked all the features. It was distant, but it definitely had yellow legs & the barring on the wings was definitely more limited than on a Common Sand, it had a nice short tail projection & a fairly distinctive eyestripe. I was getting a bit excited (understatement) & finding it difficult to hold the scope steady, so was quite pleased when a load more birders arrived with lots more decent optics & confirmed that it wasn’t all wishful thinking & I finally had a Spotted Sandpiper.  It’s amazing how about 10 birders appeared like magic....
At about 315pm I headed back to Simon & Vera in the car park with a huge grin on my face! I always enjoy birding even if I don’t find a ‘good’ bird, but it’s even better when I do!

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