Sunday, 20 November 2011

Dip a dendroica, see a sharpie

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Dunlin
Ian and I set off for Royal Tunbridge Wells at some offensive hour this morning. We arrived well before sunrise but there were some equally stupid birders kicking about. When it started to lighten we got out and joined the others. Nothing, nothing...nothing...nothing. Now it's 9.00am. Decision time. A Sharp-tailed Sand and other bits have come through at Chew Valley. A long way away and we didn't like the place...but if we were gonna go it would have to be then so off we went.

Long-billed Dowitchers
There were lots of cars parked up at Herriott's Bridge. We instantly got onto the pair of LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS - a little distant but very nice. My first and last was five years ago at Oare Marshes. They were then flushed and it turned out they didn't come back while we were there. The sharpie wasn't on view so I crossed the road and saw my fourth SPOTTED SANDPIPER - a plumage tick, being a winter adult.

Spotted Sandpiper

I crossed back and it was pointed out to me that the SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER was with a flock of Dunlin and Lapwings about two hundred feet in the air. I could see that it was bigger but that was about it - not tickable. After a torturous wait it dropped down and its identity was confirmed. This has been one of my most-wanted waders for a while now - the diffusely marked but very warm-toned breast was the most striking feature but some streaking along the flanks, a prominent supercillium and a warm rufous-brown crown were also striking. It seemed dumpier and shorter billed than a Pec to me. Also in the flock was what we believed at the time to be a Little Stint, but has been retrospectively identified as a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER. Nice. Other birds on offer included seven Bewick's Swans. A second-winter Common Gull was shouted by a surprising number of people as a Ring-billed... Ian enjoyed my bowl of chips at the very nice canteen around the corner before the day was up and we were on the return journey.