Saturday, 19 November 2011

Yankee Doodle Dandy

At precisely 07:00, the appointed time, our birding mate Duncan Walbridge pulled up alongside me in his Jaguar and we were soon off in search of the rare bird note yesterday! A little cooler today and with some threatening looking clouds overhead there had to be a chance of rain, but before we reached our destination at 07:50 the clouds had been moved on by what little wind there was.

Regular readers will doubtless recognise the location from just a few days ago when I was in Lyme Regis, Dorset on the trail of Dipper on the river Lim. As we were the first (and as it turned out the only) birders on location there was time to scan the sea-front to see who else might be here,

but following the curve of the bay and onward to

The Cob (end of the pier) there was no one else in sight. So, we set about the task of finding our target, but very soon we were distracted by a fine

adult male Black Redstart perched on the sea wall.

I couldn't turn up a photo opportunity like this, so it was time to linger a while as the other 3 continued the search. When finally catching them up, they had found the object of our desires but it took me a full further 10 minutes to pick it up.

Perched, seemingly contentedly, on the rocks (middle-ground) there was chance for a few photos but the light was not of the best forcing numerous changes to camera settings.

The main thing was we had now all seen this 'first winter' Spotted Sandpiper a rare visitor from the Americas, breeding in the Northern sub-Continent and wintering in the Southern.

With just 2 hours to high tide and the wave action increasing against these rocks it seemed sure this little fella would soon have to move - which it did. With some attempt at re-locating, the other 3 were soon tempted to have a look for the local Dippers leaving me to continue the search and finding

a few Rock Pipits.

On their return, Duncan, brother Graham plus mutual and long time birding friend Graham Bright spent some more time looking at the Black-start which had now been joined by an equally stunning

female Black Redstart,

with a Cormorant flying past at close range.

The Sandpiper was found in this little bay just to the east of its original location,

perched on one of the groynes.

It did take a short stroll along the shingle beach allowing a few more shots.

This according to Green, The Birds of Dorset, is only the 4th to be recorded in the county the others being at The Nothe, Weymouth in 1973, Christchurch Harbour in 1976 and Stanpit Marsh (the same area as the previous) in 1984.

For Graham Bright and I, this was a Dorset 'tick' and only my 3rd of the species in Great Britain which brought my Dorset List to a memorable 350 species.

What seemed most strange, given the magnitude of this bird, was the absence of any Dorset let alone other birders - maybe they were waiting for the 'Pager' to go off???

The following 2 photographs, from the archive, are published for interest the first showing the similarity with

Common Sandpiper (rarely found States-Side but common here) which is the confusion species in this plumage, but as the second shows

not much room for confusion when the Spotted Sandpiper is in Summer/Breeding plumage.

Before leaving to head for home, this Guillemot was seen close to shore, and once back at Portland I opted for a wander around the Top Fields finding this late

Painted Lady.

It would be a reasonable bet to think the Spotted Sandpiper will over-winter at Lyme Regis giving me an opportunity to re-visit and maybe get some better images - only time will tell!

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