Not Baird in the end

Its been a while since my last post. Life has been busy for me and the nights have drawn in. The days have become short and evenings dark. This has impacted my opportunities to go birding heavily , restricting me to the weekends - unless I want to do night photography.

On that note one of my pictures is now being used on a fishing tackle website after the fisherman who was my photo stooge a few weeks back loved the picture I gave him and its now pride of place on his website . I've also been helping with my friend Neville Davies out with some pictures to complement his newspaper articles as well. He writes some great nature articles for a Mallorca Newspaper amongst other publications and is an author of several books. Its nice to see some of my pics being put to good use.

For the last few weeks there has been reports daily of sightings of a solitary Bairds Sandpiper at Goldcliff Lagoons. It was first found by one of the Friends of Goldcliffs veteran birder who must have very keen eyes as when I eventually got to see this nondescript little sandpiper I needed significant help to pick it out against the mud! Bravo Mike P.

The Bairds (Latin name Caliidris bairdii) is a rare North American bird that sometimes turns up in the United Kingdom around Autumn. Its probably been blown here all the way across the Atlantic by the storms. An impressive journey , I wonder how and when it will return.

I have had several visits over the last couple of weeks at the lagoons and drawn a blank repeatedly. I've always either just missed it or its been and gone hours before my arrival. Last weekend it even turned up again after I had left. Such is the fickle nature of wildlife.

My visit today at the reserve was looking like it was going to be a big fat negative again. I had some good company in the hides from Nev and another fellow birder and enjoyed the chatter and putting the world to right.

Things had improved at Becs (Lagoon 3). The Peregrine which had what I would describe as a statuesque like presence on the Island appeared to have taken a leave of absence. I hate saying it but that was a welcome change as it has been putting off the waders using Becs. I would have red carded it last week for goal hanging if I had had my way.

Peering out of the hide though despite the Peregrine not being insight it remained quite devoid of waders. A few Curlews on the edges and two Redshanks on the periphery was about it.

A big flock of Lapwings took off from Monks ( Lagoon 1) every now and again in a big panic. Flying high and then low as if to evade a raptor. A flock of Wigeon arrived at the Becs. They seem to be growing in number slowly as winter approaches. They soon got startled by a female Marsh Harrier that floated over the pill and caused havoc. They flew off in a fright only to return later in drips and drabs.

On the mud of Priors (Lagoon 2) we watched Meadow Pipits , Pied Flycatchers and Linnets feeding in small flocks. One particular bird caught our attention and the groups consensus was that we were watching a Water Pipit. That was my first tick of the day.

We decided to quit the seawall hide and take a look at the estuary from the seawall. It was quite bleak this morning. A storm is heading our way and you can feel it. The wind was up and rain will soon be upon us.

There were Curlew, Oystercatchers and the odd Grey Plover feeding on the mud.

So, that looked like to be the best of it - but more fun was to be had.

On our way back we got talking to another birding friend who happened to mention the Bairds was back! I hit the turbo boost button and marched off to the Snipe Platform.

I looked out from the platform and saw mud, lots of it but no birds. After some serious help and direction I eventually found the little sandpiper. On about well camouflaged. It was hard to spot. I blame my dodgy eye.

Finally I got a few pictures and a short video of our little  North American visitor. My second tick of the day :)

I must admit an overcast muggy day turned out to be alright. It would get better.

I headed home. Driving through my local industrial estate I saw a pair of very agitated Carrion Crows on the side of the road pestering a large bird on the pavement. As I passed the commotion I saw  a female Sparrowhawk with a kill. I pulled in further up the road and dived out of the car and grabbed my camera from the boot. I then sneaked along the pavement and tried to get a close shot of the raptor and its prey.

It was like a comedy of errors. As I crawled along the pavement and checked my camera I realised I had only a few shots left on my memory card. What a dilemma. Do I delete the Baird Pics or go back to the car and potentially miss the Sparrowhawk ?. I risked the latter. I got back to the car, quickly I grabbed a new memory card but in my excitement with shaky hands fumbled when swapping out the cards and put a SD card in the XQD card my mistake and jammed it into the slot!! No. The SD slot was working OK though so that would have to do.

Back I went scuttling up the pavement back to the Sparrowhawk. It was dispatching a Wood Pigeon. What a magnificent bird of prey.

I was attracting the attention now of passers by. It was shift change time and it was all happening near the factories exit. People were wondering why a man dressed in camouflage clothing had adopted a sniper like pose with a big camera lens. I kind of stood out in suburbia :)

Fortunately the hawk did not get spooked straight way. Eventually after a few minutes it got flustered by the increased traffic and up and left  - taking the unlucky pigeon with it.

I managed to get a few quick pictures. I was annoyed with myself later as some were more shaky than usual as I forgot to change my settings with all the excitement but a few were good keepers

I got 10 minutes this week of light during the week and the clouds spoiled a promising sunset. Wrapped up as the autumn evenings are getting cold.

As the sun goes down. at low tide.

My picture online

Bairds Sandpiper

Zoomed crop pic. Its very difficult to spot against the mud.

Female Sparrowhawk with Wood Pigeon kill

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