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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

Small but deadly

This evening I got to watch quite a spectacle at Goldcliff Lagoons.  A female Merlin caught my attention rocketing though the sky like a mini fighter jet in front of the Redshank platform.

Female Merlin

She was on the hunt and at first I could not work out what her target was. A large group of Avocets had flocked tightly together but showed no inclination to take flight. Then as the small falcon jetted past me there in front of her was a small wader that was doing its up most to stay ahead of her. The wader I think after reviewing my pictures a Little Ringed Plover ( Although I am open to suggestions it could be a Ringed Plover).

Merlin pursuing the Plover


Back and forth across the sky they flew locked in a tight chase. The Plover turned quickly trying to keep the Merlin in sight but off its back. The circles were getting ever tighter, sometimes the Merlin would overshoot the Plover but it was so agile and quickly turned and got back on the waders tail.

The aerial pursuit went on for about five minutes at a terrific pace. I struggled to get a lock on either of the birds.

Almost caught

Merlin's (Falco columbarious) are the UK's smallest Falcons. They are like a smaller version of a Peregrine Falcon that specialises in taking small birds and usually by chasing them down. This takes serious speed and agility and these Falcons are like quick silver.

The Plover seemed to tire and then "bang" it was hit and it dropped with the falcon to some grass. Then up came the Merlin carrying the Plover into the sky. A successful kill. Out of no where came a Magpie and it tried to steal the prey. The Merlin was having none of it , she twisted and turned out of the Magpies reach and it headed to the far side of Monks ( Lagoon 2). There it landed and started to pluck its evening meal.

The end - a successful kill.

The only other thing of note this evening was the arrival of hundreds of Hirundines. Priors ( Lagoon 2) had a large flock of Sand Martins feeding on flying midges over the water and drinking from the lagoons. A few Swallows also put in an appearance. Its great to see these wonderful birds arriving back to the UK.

Sand Martins on Priors (Lagoon 2)

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