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Purple on the rocks

  I have the real pleasure of writing my first blog post of 2022 about a trip to Battery Point, Portishead, Bristol to photograph Purple Sandpipers (Calidris Maritima). As many of my readers will know I love waders probably above all bird species and so when I had the opportunity to get some pictures with my good friend Paul Joy of this rare, specially protected and very confiding wader species that winters in the UK coastland I was really excited. Up until this point I had never seen a Purple Sandpiper. They are small waders, bigger than a Dunlin but slightly smaller and less robust than a Turnstone.  They migrate to the UK in the winter from as far away places as Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Fennoscandia and Russia. They then spend their time along the coasts roosting and feeding on various rocky outcrops. They have a preference for rocks covered with seaweeds where they forage for insects, molluscs and crustaceans. They get their names because of a Purple sheen that can be seen in t

Redshank for tea

The weather at Goldcliff Lagoons was glorious this evening. I had the reserve to myself so settled into position at the Redshank hide. The light was a real challenge for photography. The evening sun was glaring down and I had to focus into it. Its no wonder that both predators and prey use the sun to their advantage. More of that later.

The bird residents of the lagoon were keeping their distance and I was just about able to get some views of them through the glare. It was relatively quiet. The tide was going out.

There was a small group of Black Tailed Godwits (perhaps a Bar Tailed in there somewhere). They kept to themselves. A couple of Avocets and about 70 Dunlins. The Dunlins were busy feeding around the lagoon. Every now and again, getting startled by something or bullied around by the Lapwings, they would take flight and they afforded me some nice views.A flock of Redshank was also on the far side of the island in lagoon 1.

A ripple of panic spread across the lagoon and the Dunlins started to flock darting in a small swarm across the golden lit waters. I looked to the sky suspecting a raptor was the cause.

Suddenly to my left a Male Marsh Harrier appeared. He soared high, the evening rays showing up the blue of his upper wings nicely. He then menacingly cruised across the lagoon targeting the group of Redshanks at the far side.

 Pandemonium erupted in the ranks of Redshanks. Bravely a few of them mobbed the Marshy, harassing it closely. The Harrier appeared to be coasting along through the fracas it was causing quite nonchalantly.

It was all a ruse though. It then turned and stooped. Diving down it swept up behind one of the Redshanks using the sun behind its back I think to confuse its fleeing victim. With a splash of water as it impacted with the Redshank, it made a successful kill.

The Marshy then hauled its prey into the heavens and made off from the reserve to eat Redshank for tea. Absolutely amazing to watch. The photos don't do it justice really, taken at extreme range for my Sigma in very challenging harsh light but I did capture the moment.


Marsh Harrier -Target Acquired


The moment it took the Redshank(Cropped)

Redshank taken


Redshank for Tea.






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