Sunday, 11 December 2011

Western Sandpiper: Cley, Norfolk (late news!)

A bit late this as I've been a bit busy decorating and stuff but last weekend Dave and I shot down to Norfolk in order to try and connect with the 'peep'.

Not THE "peep", but not far off it © Alan Wilson 2007

We had a fairly uneventful journey on the long and windy road to Cley stuck at 40mph for most of the way, but luckily Dave had brought some decent music to make the time fly by!

It was 'freezing' down there according to some (the cockney element), they should come to Yorkshire if they want to know what cold is like!!! We made our way down to the hides to be greeted with "It was showing (with 7 Dunlin) but was flushed by a Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier". We waited for a while but there was no sign and it was getting noisier and noisier in there (Why do people feel the need to be so loud in these hides?)

As the crowd was starting to annoy me I went into the next hide, which was deserted - awesome, a whole hide to myself overlooking a massive area, now all I needed to do was find the bird!

After 15 or so minutes of scanning, with only a few Dunlin (but lots of Lapwing, Ruff etc about) and a flock of approximately 60 Snow Bunting flying along the beach in the distance, a Marsh Harrier made its way across the back of the marsh, in doing so it started flushing all of the waterfowl. Birds started to drop in closer to the hide and stick their heads out of the longer grass to keep an eye on the raptor.

A small party of Dunlin landed right in front of the hide, 6 of them, but no American "peep" in amongst them. A bit more scanning and I was onto a small wader walking out of sight along a small channel. That has to be it I thought, it was noticeably small though the fraction of a second view was hardly conclusive. A small group of birders appeared into the hide. A short while later the bird walked into view again. Scope on it, "It's here" I said to the few guys and I called Dave who was in the other hide. Just as it walked out of view again Dave came through, shortly followed by the contents of the other hide and after a short and nervous wait the bird came into view, cue loads more noise as people tried to see it.

The "peep" showed well, quite a distinctive bird, a smart Western Sandpiper. After a while something flushed a few of the waders (the hide noise maybe?) and the Western did a little flight where it landed right in front of another hide with a Dunlin that had appeared from nowhere, cue mass exodus to another hide where the bird showed incredibly well briefly, allowing a full range of diagnostic features to be seen, before being flushed again, this time definitely by the hide noise and then it flew out of sight. It didn't come back during the rest of our stay on the reserve.

A good, yet frustrating day. A good ID challenge (I think the bird had started its time at Cley as a Little Stint, had turned into a Semi-palmated Sandpiper before becoming a Western Sandpiper...), made all the more difficult by the loudness in the hides. Some people need a lesson in hide etiquette...

I didn't manage any photos however here are a few pictures of Western Sandpipers looking a bit smarter than the bird I saw!

Western Sandpiper © Arthur Morris (Birds as Art)

Western Sandpiper © Arthur Morris (Birds as Art)

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