Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pectoral Sandpiper at Brigsteer, Cumbria

October 25, 2011:
A juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper was on flooded farmland here for the fifth successive day today. It fed almost continuously on the muddy margins of the large puddles in the field and seemed to have a favoured area of limited size.

It was nicely plumaged, its darker breast markings finishing abruptly as a sharp border in the pectoral region, hence its name. It had a partial eye-stripe running slightly behind the eye, mustard-yellow legs, and strongly contrasting wing feathers reminiscent of a Ruff.

It fed avidly with both a pecking and a sewing-machine motion (cf Dowitchers) and preened occasionally but was also very wary, posing in an upright manner to check for danger. This is a high arctic bird which nests on the tundra of the North American continent and, similar to many other birds from there this autumn, had been blown well of course eastwards during its southerly migration.

[The flooded field favoured by the Sandpiper]

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Great Northern Diver at Ringstone Edge Reservoir, West Yorkhire

October 19, 2011:
On this high Pennine wind-swept reservoir a mature bird has been present for several days. It was in full summer plumage and beautifully marked, quite different to the juveniles or moulting birds sometimes seen inland in the autumn. Great Northern Divers nest mainly in Iceland and Greenland and return there in April after wintering much further south, usually well off-shore in the Atlantic.

This bird spent most of the time diving and would often travel a considerable distance under water which made it difficult to relocate on the choppy surface. It occasionally preened and wing-flapped and on more than one occasion sang mournfully, a most eerie sound at this remote location. Unfortunately it was always distant which made photography difficult.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Slavonian Grebe at Fairhaven Lake

October 6, 2011:
A non-breeding plumage Slavonian Grebe arrived at Fairhaven Lake yesterday and is possibly one of the Scottish birds. The weather conditions today were atrocious with gale-force gusts of wind and periods of horizontal hail.

In this weather the bird kept fairly close to the lake shore but continued to dive, sometimes surfacing with a captured small fish.

{Today's very poor weather]

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Solitary Sandpiper still at Nateby

October 4, 2011
The bird was still on the flooded scrape in the farmer's field this morning. It was possible to get slightly closer than before but it was still distant. It fed in the soft mud almost continuously but on one occasion flew across the pool. It appears to be quite settled here for the time being at least.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Solitary Sandpiper at Nateby, Lancashire

October 2, 2011:
A Solitary Sandpiper arrived in agricultural fields near Nateby this morning. A very rare vagrant to western Europe which appears to be only the 37th confirmed record for the British Isles and the first for Lancashire and north-west England. It is also the first record in Britain since 2007 (although by coincidence another one was reported in Jersey today).

The bird could only be safely viewed at long range (c.300 metres) from a slight rise in the ground as it fed in a shallow scrape. Clay pigeon shooters not too far away appeared not to bother it. A large number of people had already arrived to see it within 2 hours of the sighting being put out on the internet. A few photos taken in steady rain, poor light, and at great distance give an indication of the locality the bird was favouring which can just be discerned as it reflects in the water.

Solitary Sandpipers nest in trees in the low arctic/boreal region of Alaska and northern Canada and winter in southern USA and South America. Like many others rare waders arriving in Britain recently they will have been blown off course whilst migrating south during last month's American hurricane.

[The Solitary Sandpiper twitch]