Sunday, 3 October 2010

Spot the Sandpiper

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.

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