Thursday, 11 June 2015


After Blackpits, Cinnamonpits was an outside bet for one of my next British ticks. I had certainly been wishfully thinking about seeing a Hudsonian Whimbrel - differentiated from its Eurasian cousin by its dark rump, pale face and cinnamon underwing - in this post as recently as May. This species has occurred more times in Britain than its namesake Godwit, but is still a very rare bird. So when one turned up just two counties away along the coast in West Sussex it was time to take advantage of the light evenings and twitch it after work.

Unperturbed by the prospect of inducing the Mitchell curse - we have a pretty good record for mid-range twitching together - I picked Jol up from a service station en route and after a mercifully trouble-free journey we found ourselves in the ever so slightly over-crowded car park at Church Norton. Snaffling the final half-space we were soon tooled up with scopes and heading off down the sea wall.
The Hudsonian Whimbrel was a long way out - but scope views were conclusive. And even at this distance a pale face is discernable.
On hitting the back of the crowd of twitchers we found to our consternation that the bird was not in view. Worse, not in view having been last seen distantly in the long grass of an island far out in the harbour. Fortunately it had been well watched and the general area had been pinned down. Eventually a striped head popped up from the island, people speculated about whether it was in fact the right bird, and after a short while it flew to confirm it. Unfortunately I could not get on to the flying bird and even after it was relocated after landing out in the open, revealing a characteristic pale face and an apparently dark rump when preening, I really would not have been happy until I had seen the rump in flight. I didn't have to wait too long, and when it flew directly away from us showing this feature well, before landing in long grass, we agreed we had seen enough and headed home.
This, believe it or not, is a photo of the Hudsonian Whimbrel flying away. But even in a photo this bad you would be seeing a white V up the back of a regular Whimbrel.
Initially I was disappointed that I had been unable to get decent photos, but when the fact of a mid-week, post-work lifer within 90 minutes of home had sunk in, it was, I realised, all pretty fortunate. So now there is just the ethical dilemma of whether or not it can be admitted to the photo year-list. It is, incontrovertibly, a photo of the Hudsonian Whimbrel. I watched it through the scope with the camera on top. But would these photos be enough to clinch a submission to the BBRC? I think not. Stuff it, I'm having it anyway. Number 199 it is. #itsmylistimaketherules.

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