Monday, 5 December 2011

You've come a long way! Both of ya'

Saturday was spend down on the North Tees Marshes and to be specific at Seaton Common. On arrival it was clear the Gulls were just not playing ball and most of the birds were not roosting on Seaton Common itself so interest turned to Geese. Had brilliant views of the European White-fronted Geese that seem to have taken up a form of residence here. I was checking North Gare for the second time that day looking for Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting when I received a phone call from Chris Bell (cheers again Chris) to say a Siberian Stonechat had just been found at Zinc Works road! It would appear I had missed the bird but then the call went up and someone had it. I managed to get views of the bird in flight and some cracking views of the bird perched up nicely. A bit of a stunner! This was a British tick for me, it has just recently been split from European Stonechat and is therefore now classed as a full species. Its not to difficult to see why! The photos will ofcourse confirm this. Bit unfortunate the bird appears to have now gone as I would have liked a better and more prolonged view as I saw it just before it went to roost, but not to worry. There should be others in Durham in my life time (I hope!)

 (Siberian Stonechat - © Ian Forrest)

 (Siberian Stonechat - © Ian Forrest)

Sunday was a busy day and I headed on down to Norfolk for the Sandpiper that was clearly doing most peoples heads in! It was first put out a Semipalmated Sandpiper and then re-identified as a Western! I has looked at this bird from the minute news broke it might have been a Western and at first I was firmly in the Semi-p camp from the photos I had seen. However as the week went on new photos emerged showing some key ID criteria and some interesting features that pointed toward Western Sandpiper. Some photos were uploaded showing the fringing to the mantle feathers and the lower scapulars, plus the fact the bill looks to long for Semi-p I was convinced (like many others) this bird was indeed a Western Sandpiper and not a Semipalmated. Went down to Norfolk with Tom Middleton and we headed first to Wolferton triangle, after a while I had my first ever tickable BOU Golden Pheasant, it was a male aswell! Poor views but was still a BOU tick after having seen the fairly dodgy birds at Sculthorpe Moor, these birds are less dodgy than the Sculthorpe birds (apparently). We then headed on down to Cley Marshes NWT and we headed straight for the hide where the Western Sandpiper was. It was still present and showing at really close range just outside the hide! We had distant views of the bird aswell, most of the time it was fairly close allowing us to study and enjoy the bird. Here are my comments on the bird having seen it in the flesh:
  • Can appear occasionally short and dumpy.
  • Has this habit of running like a Sanderling when feeding. Not too dissimilar to the feeding habits of the Dunlin's it was associating with.
  • Its feeding action is mainly probing, with a drill like motion. Fairly distinctive, and cannot recall having witnessed Semipalmated Sandpiper feeding like this with the birds I have seen. 
  • White underbelly that extends onto the 'shoulders' making distinctive oval like markings on this area.
  • Bill was long and obvious, bill was a good size for birds size.
  • Crown was a dark rufous colour, contrasting with rest of the head.
  • Legs were not dissimilar to Semipalmated Sandpiper or Dunlin. However photos do show palmations between the toes eliminating runt Dunlin
  • When alert the bird looks very Dunlin like indeed! Pictures are not good to go off when making a judgment on this bird. See it in the field and I believe it is fairly straightforward and points way more to Western Sandpiper than Semipalmated.

Brilliant bird and a brilliant day! Got home extremely tired, but was it worth it? Ofcourse it was! 3 lifers in one weekend in winter...wasn't expecting that. But the numbers don't really matter(?) what matters is I enjoyed the birds I saw. The thought of where the Western Sandpiper was from and its rarity really appeals, and I love waders!

 (Western Sandpiper - © Dave Barnes)

(Western Sandpiper with Dunlin - © Dave Barnes)

(Western Sandpiper - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew, Some years back I twitched a Semi-P at Musselbrough, Lothian. On arrival I was told it was now a Western! It was quite like your Norfolk bird, maybe a tad greyer. Try to search some pics of it to compare...