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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

Zoom causes chaos in the dusk light

On Wednesday I managed a mid-week visit to Goldcliff Lagoons about an hour before sunset. I was accompanied by my friend and fellow blogger Nev Davies. Its been a while since we have caught up and it was good to meet up.

The clouds were looking pretty ominous as another storm was on its way. The sun was desperately trying to peek out from behind the grey clouds and at most,some diffuse sunbeams manged to break the gloom and bring some glow to the lagoons.

Avocets huddled under the glow of the evening sun as it threatens to break through the clouds.

On Monks ( Lagoon 1) the Avocets were huddled closely together in a flock of about seventy birds. They were roosting and not particularly very active. They appeared to be settled for the night.

The flock of Avocets

Scanning the distance we picked out the "Famous Five" White Fronted Geese on the grass at Becs ( Lagoon 3) and in the central grassy area between Monks and Becs two Barnacle Geese were grazing.

The Famous Five - White Fronted Geese

Barnacle Geese


Priors ( Lagoon 2) had a good gathering of Wigeon, Shovelers and Teal. Canadian Geese were out on the bank to the right of the Snipe viewing platform and to the left in the corner were a couple of Snipe if you looked carefully.

Snipe


The view from the Seawall was quite barren looking. The tide was out and the wind was whipping up. There would be no beautiful sunset.

The Seawall hide offered some shelter from the wind and Nev and I settled down to chill and watch. To be honest I was not expecting much as it was low tide.

Then high up in the sky Nev spotted something black slowly spiralling down to the lagoons. The Glossy Ibis was back. It was six o'clock and the light was fading fast making visibility poor but you cannot mistake the birds silhouette.  It landed in its usual spot and began to preen and feed a little in the shallows of Priors.

Flossy the Glossy


It then popped its head up in alarm and boom up it went resulting in a huge cascade of panic . Duck alarm calls rang out across the lagoons. Waterfowl were everywhere flying in all directions.

We scanned the skies, what was causing the chaos. Then shooting by us was a dark coloured blur of pure unadulterated speed.   A Peregrine, I like to call it "Zoom" (more in jest really as its usually as a still as a statue perched on Lagoon 3's island ) hurtled around Priors flying low just above the reeds.

It changed direction at the last minute diving towards the airborne flock of Wigeon. They scattered and then it swerved away and landed on the gate post in the middle of the lagoons.

Zoom - Peregrine Falcon on the hunt.

This is the second time in a week I have seen it "fail" to make a kill (assuming its the same bird- I think it is).

It perched for a while and then dived off it and came flying straight at the Seawall hide before flicking away up over the seawall. Super stuff to watch and a nightmare to focus on in the near-dark.

The Ibis came back and resumed its preening and the ducks calmed down a bit.

Then something big swooped in. Peering through the encroaching darkness that was falling we made out the shape of a female Marsh Harrier. Moving nothing like a falcon. She took her time, exuded menace, her tactics are more about surprise , misdirection and persistence.

Mrs Marshy

None of them worked this evening. The ducks were too stressed out and kept well out of her way. She did not linger and disappeared into the all enveloping darkness of the night. So did we. It was now too dark to see anything and home beckoned.


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