Friday 25 October 2013

Legging it

'Undignified trot', it's been pointed out to me, is an oft-used phrase on this blog. I should explain it's not a reference to Derek Hatton of 1980s Militant Tendency infamy. Rather, it's usually deployed to describe the spectacle of middle-aged men jogging, laden with optics, the last couple of hundred yards to the site of a rare bird in the hope of seeing it before it flies off. In the case of a Semipalmated Plover in Hampshire last weekend, only the third British record, this unedifying behaviour seemed entirely rational.

Speaking of legging it, after twitching Saturday, Sunday was reserved for a quick twirl around Swineham, where a Yellow-legged Gull was one of the highlights 
The Plover in question had been present for a couple of days intermittently over high tide. Steve, Jol and I therefore played it cool by not setting off before 10am on Saturday as high tide was forecast for early afternoon. (I say cool, try standing on the pavement with Jol, second only to me for twitchy neurosis, waiting for a lift with a tick at stake). With an hour to go to the site, the pager reported the Plover had been refound, but it stayed just 2 minutes before flying off. Not good for the neurotics on board.
...and a view of the yellow legs on the same bird, in case you like your large larid identification made simple, and primary patterns don't float your boat
An hour later, as we entered the backstreets of Hayling Island, it came back, conveniently close to a car park we had just passed. After an emergency stop/three point turn/pay & display routine we baled out, one of us shamefully leaving a car door open, can't remember who, and headed up the windy seafront. A small knot of birders were huddled on the shingle a few hundred yards hence looking through scopes, but between us and them were two dog walkers and their mutt, tail all of a wag. Imagine a large flock of Ringed Plover flying away with a lookalike Semipalmated playing 'Where's Wally' among them...
Clouded Yellow on graveyard flowers in a Wareham churchyard - not bad for 20th October.
There have been enough unhappy endings on this blog this year though, and fortunately the dog was on a lead and the Plover stayed put. Despite suboptimal viewing conditions and some imperfect direction-giving - 'it's on the shingle' (on a shingle beach - no s***!), 'below the groyne' (do you mean the groyne below which every single wader in view is sitting?), 'by a piece of litter' (have you seen the state of this beach?) - we all got on it before too long. The Plover wasn't seen after a tornado hit Hayling Island the following day, and I was concerned it may have joined the Needletail (windmill)/Great Snipe (cat)/Short-toed Lark (Merlin) roll call of 2013 tragic rare bird snuffings. I see it's back today though so apparently not. Phew.
Semipalmated Plover. By that bit of shingle.

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