Sunday, 23 May 2010

Old Moor - Broad-billed Sandpiper

I had planned to have a quiet day on Sunday but as ever, I’m ‘on call’ for news of a good bird. One wader in particular I’ve been trying to catch up with is Broad-billed Sandpiper and mid morning news of one found at Old Moor RSPB had me expressing more than a bit of casual interest! I’d agreed to tip Andy off for a potential twitch and he had no hesitation in being rescued from garden centre duties, South Yorkshire here we come……

Until, just two or three miles down the road……. came the dreaded ‘no sign’ update! I didn’t fancy a wasted journey on spec (although Andy predicted it would probably still be there somewhere!) and the next best bird (well, we were already on the road) would be the Seaforth female Wilson’s Phalarope! Cue - a u-turn in the direction of Liverpool…

90 minutes later, we were peering through the fence which I knew would be distinctly dodgy from a photography point of view (didn’t even get the camera out of the bag) but against the light it was almost very dodgy from a scope point of view! Nevertheless, we were soon on it with another Shropshire migrant (Dave Western) making a gallery of three! A bonus Black Tern year tick was also present, just a shame about the light…..

Andy had been spot on too (was that ever in doubt) – the Broad Billed Sand was now showing again at Old Moor too!! Cue decision time, well, it was only a short journey across the Pennines….. Knowing the little so and so would not be staying overnight, there was to be no hesitation this time, South Yorkshire here we come (again)……

Satnav got us around some accident mayhem too and just before 5.00 pm we were welcomed by the new ‘welcoming face’ of the RSPB, slightly shellshocked by the sudden rush of interest in ‘Old Moor’! A delightful young girl, keeping the side gate open for us and armed with up to the minute info, where to go first, where to try next etc…. Gone was the dour “Can I see yer membership card”?? RSPB, you got this appointment spot on – had I not already been a member, I would have joined immediately- honest!

We got to Wader hide, which was virtually empty and….. no sign from here…..

You could sense the buzz from the few birders crammed in the left hand section of Wath Ings hide another 130m further on – it was in view from here…. On my list within seconds, courtesy of another birders scope, it was keeping company with a Dunlin on the narrow muddy spit of a distant island. After a short while, the assembled gathering dwindled and we got a grandstand view !! Only problem, we were viewing into the dreaded light again and the bird was a fair way distant but no problem in having a good relaxed view of this five star (for me) Asian vagrant – record shots duly followed…..

Sensing that visibility would be much better from Wader hide, we made our way back there…. Eyes were locked on the same small island covered in vegetation – a completely different aspect from Wath Ings though, the spit was completely hidden from here! Almost without exception, every birder entering refused to believe this was one and the same island! Good numbers of Gadwall, a pair of Common Tern, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover helped ease the strain of waiting for the main attraction to appear….

We had allowed it two lots of ‘give it just ten more minutes then’? Just as well we did, at the end of the second ultimatum, it wandered into view tagging along with the Dunlin. This was more like it, plumage features including that boldly striped head pattern, now lit up by the low sun – still distant but down the light - oh you little stunner!!! The moment didn’t last of course but it was certainly up there with all the other great bird, great view moments!

Now at least you can see clearly what the fuss was about….. although, still at record shot distance…..

The moment didn’t last and apart from one brief reappearance and a flushed flight/return to the spit, that was our lot for the day! Never mind, three year ticks, two class waders and one lifer for me – Old Moor and Broad-billed Sandpiper is now firmly etched in my birding memory lane….