Monday, 1 August 2011

Purple Patch!

The start of a remarkable week began on Thursday 26th July, when a routine walk into town via Bedford Park, came up with an out of the blue, double whammy of quality inland migrants. Having not seen any Spotted Flycatchers in the park since the start of May, when a single bird was feeding in the trees around the lake, it was something of an unexpected treat to confirm successful breeding, with at least one youngster present alongside both adults, in a small block of trees close to the bandstand. Watching the adults, feeding from a large Corsican Pine on the edge of the trees, I suddenly realised that they had been joined by a Pied Flycatcher, sat on one of the branches close to main trunk! A county tick, and an excellent bird so close to home.

With time pushing on, I carried on into town, but returned to the park half an hour later, where the Spotted Flycatchers where now showing well with three youngsters. After another brief view of the Pied Flycatcher, I noticed a single Phyllosc feeding in the small Oak tree, part way along the path through the trees. Assuming it to be a Willow Warbler, it emerged from behind the leaves, where I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. After watching for a few minutes (just to be sure that I hadn't made an obvious mistake) I was able to ring Steve Blain (county recorder) to let him know that there was both a Pied Flycatcher and a Wood Warbler, in the same patch of trees in Bedford Park!! An amazing double occurrence, and probably the first time that these two species have been seen together in the county at the same site! Both birds remained in the same area throughout the day, though could often be elusive, with some people seeing either the Flycatcher and not the Warbler, or the Warbler but not the Flycatcher.

After countless hours of looking through waders at Snettisham, I was finally able to add a self found scarce wader to my patch list, when I found a Pectoral Sandpiper, during the evening high tide on Thursday 28th. My second record at Snettisham, following two long staying birds during the autumn of 2004, and a welcome self found tick. Two days later, and my good fortune (as it would turn out) was to continue, although the morning high tide of Sunday 31st, was a day more of frustration rather than joy, despite the morning producing four Curlew Sandpipers, the adult Little Stint, and a Juvenile Spoonbill.

Sitting by the benches behind the second hide, I clapped eyes on a single wader, flying across the mud, which then dropped down amongst a large mixed flock of Knot and Dunlin, and disappeared from view. Although views were relatively brief, I was convinced that it had to be a White-rumped Sandpiper. There was no doubt that it did have a white rump, and I was almost certain that it wasn't just a Curlew Sandpiper. With the tide falling away, birds were steadily moving further out into the wash, but despite scanning as many Dunlin as I could scan, and returning in the afternoon for the evening tide I couldn't relocate the bird. Convinced that it had flown out from the pits, I returned the following morning, and was amazed to find it feeding with Dunlin, on the mud just the other side of the channel, opposite the wooden jetty. After watching it on the mud for about an hour it disappeared from sight, but relocated it on the pits, were it remained on the islands in front of the far hide until at least 09:00.

Note the slimmer bodied appearance, with the longer wings and more attenuated rear end, when compared against the Dunlin on the right.

Adult White-rumped Sandpiper Snettisham RSPB

A strikingly grey bird, particularly on the head, with a prominent supercillium, light breast streaking, and obvious white edges to the dark scapulars. An excellent patch tick, and my second "self found" bird, following a juvenile at Titchwell in 2005.

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