Set off from Poole at 0600 hoping to get to the Exe Estuary just after first light, but by the time I had waited for a garage to open in sleepy Dorset, arrived on site to find the access road closed, and walked the wrong way down the canal for a bit, it was 0900 before I got to the Turf Hotel. I immediately saw the juvenile Spotted Sandpiper on the edge of the River Exe near some abandoned boats. The promised sunshine hadn't emerged, so I positioned myself to the south hoping that the bird's direction of travel and incoming tide would bring it within range for the camera. Just as it was getting close, a microlight flushed it a long way upstream. It eventually came back down as a steady stream of birders appeared, so I went back to my earlier vantage point only for a photographer who had moved closer to flush it as he retreated. Soon after, everyone else had gone and, thinking it wasn't my day, I walked north up the river bank for one last look. Fortunately I found the bird at point blank range in a muddy patch above the tideline. I spent a very rewarding 10 minutes in the wet grass and mud taking these images and when I looked round, there were a group of about 20 behind me, being led by another visitor from Dorset, Dominic Couzens - all enjoyed good views of the bird. In addition to the plumper, greyer body, yellow legs, and distinctive bill shape/
colour, the bird gave a cheeky
'peep peep' alarm call when flushed to help distinguish it from its Common cousin. Kingfisher and Rock Pipit also put in regular appearances on the bank of the Exe.
11 months ago