Friday 18 September 2015

An evening out

It's that time of year when autumn rarities start turning up, and if they do so close to home, there might just be time to twitch them between finishing work and sundown. So as I ambled out of the office on Thursday night I checked the pager to find that a Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been located on the Dorset coast.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Having seen one nearby a few years ago, I wasn't planning to dash off. Then I remembered I was supposed to be doing a photo year-list, and at this stage of the game it wasn't exactly going to tick along of its own accord. Mindful of the maxim that motivation comes from action, not the other way around, I quickened my pace from the train to home, got changed and headed to Ringstead under threatening skies.
Near the White Nothe - species #224 on the photo year-list
The view to Portland from the National Trust car park was stunning and moody. But given the lateness of the hour, there was no time for sightseeing. I saddled up with camera and scope and headed east. I was in such a hurry I quite forgot my manners: only after I hurdled the stile from the car park on to the track to White Nothe did I notice the posh-looking car containing a posh-looking couple who had apparently been waiting for me to open the five-bar gate next to the stile as I passed. He had his hands outstretched, palms upturned in a 'why didn't you open the gate?' kind of gesture. Resisting the temptation to say 'sorry, mate, despite its feudal image we did actually abolish serfdom in Dorset several centuries ago', I scurried past, muttering something apologetic about having urgent business to attend to. Yes, in a field.
The Sandpiper spent short spells sitting tight in the field
A few field widths later, I arrived at the spot where the bird was last seen. Finding it was easy as the ever thoughtful Nick Urch had staked it out just in case any short-sighted late-comers like me turned up. While the sun briefly threatened to provide some late evening light as it dipped below a bank of slate grey cloud to the west, in the end it never quite made it, and so I had to settle for shoddy pictures in poor light. I went back for more tonight and while the light was slightly better, the bird was more elusive, hiding just over the brow of a field until the sun had almost gone again. But a few late rays illuminated the North American visitor's scalloped back beautifully.
A very small bird in a very big landscape

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