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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

What did I miss?

 


Well, despite only having been away from Goldcliff Lagoons for just four days this week I have missed some cracking birds

On Tuesday my friends Terry and Gaynor Winter had an epic tick. They found an Ashy Headed Wagtail. It looks like a Yellow Wagtail but with a blue grey head. I did say in my last blog post that you never know what may drop in at Goldcliff. Take a look on the Gwent Birders Facebook Page and there's a lovely picture that Terry got of this rare visitor to the reserve.

That sighting was just the start of it. The same day a Snow Goose turned up on the lagoons. Now that would have been another lifer for me.

Then a Spotted Flycatcher was seen by several people. That bird would have been a first for me on the reserve. 

I was really frustrated to be missing all of these great birds.

When the "home time" bell finally rung at the close of work on Friday I was eager to get to the reserve for a few hours in the evening as the storm would soon be upon us. The weather forecast was predicting horrific weather to come on the weekend.

So Friday evening I trundled into the reserve hoping to see something good. The light during the evening can be quite shocking and with very tired eyes after a busy week the glare from the sun was almost too much for my one good eye to deal with.

I decided to head for the seawall as the light would be more behind me and any birds on the lagoons would be a lot less silhouetted.

Whilst making my way around I stopped and spoke to one of the keen eyed birders who told me he had seen a Little Tern on Becs Lagoon in with Dunlin. Wow, now this would make my evening I though. A Little Tern on the lagoons would be my first ever sighting of this species on the reserve.

With great haste I made my way to the seawall hide. I passed another birder, who with a big smile said she had seen the Tern and it remained perched on the mud. 

Faster I marched and just as I neared the hide , the flock of birds on the mud went up in a complete panic. Two Canada geese seemed to be the cause of it all as they seemed to crash land in amongst the little waders. I cursed them quite loudly as when I next looked large proportion of the Dunlins had gone and there was no sign at all of the Little Tern.

Thats typical of the kind of luck I am having at the moment.

Nevertheless there was plenty to see . There was hundreds of Dunlins. I have said previously I think of May as the "Dunlin" season and sure enough there was absolutely loads of them on the reserve. As I say patiently in the sea wall hide they gradually began to return in small flocks and eventually the lagoons waters were filled with a carpet of these busy little birds.

Now and then a Whimbrel dropped in with them. These relatives of the similar looking Curlew tended to land, wash and preen themselves before moving on to the grass around Becs Lagoon to feed.

Other wader species of note were the Godwits. There was a small flock of Black-Tailed Godwits that tended to hang about the far side of Becs. Closer to the hide though came a couple of Bar-Tailed Godwits.

There was no sign of the Snow Goose but the Bean Goose remains onsite and came flying in with a a Canada goose and landed on Priors.


Just as things were looking really promising for something cool to suddenly drop in , a pair of Oystercatchers went into full on feathered alarm bell mode and scared the living daylights of everything. The dunlin turned into a whirling cloud of synchronised panic and got so worked up that they all flew over the hide out to the estuary and did not come back.

That was my prompt to start making my way back out of the reserve. The clouds were now rolling and the coming storm was fast approaching.

When I reached the sea wall I was greeted by a single Wheatear that showed nicely.Even when I sat down on the wall to watch the tide go out, with a horde of Dunlins running along the waters edge, it remained just a few meters away from me and kept me company for a good twenty minutes.

To be honest that was about as good as it was going to get and I settled for a lovely picture of a Wheatear to end my evening.


Goldcliff never disappoints me even when I miss some good birds - it just teases me and leaves me wanting for more.

Until next time - perhaps I will get better luck then.


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