Sunday, 4 August 2013

Long-billed Dowitcher and other Waders

Sunday morning and I was awake just after 4am. No point staying in bed and I needed a good days birding with real birds instead of butterflies. By 6am I was standing on Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marshes. First in the car park and first on the lagoon. Great except the bird that I had come to see, a Long-billed Dowitcher was nowhere to be seen.

Still it was a lovely morning and there were lots of real birds about so I set off to explore the other lagoons. The first photo opportunity was a Snipe lit up like a beacon by the early morning sun.

There were hundreds of Dunlin across the lagoons with a few Curlew Sandpipers feeding with them.

Juvenile Dunlin

Adults showing black belly patch diagnostic

I was hoping to get the Curlew Sandpiper in flight with the Dunlin but I cannot see one in this picture. Spotting the Curlew Sandpiper was easy against the summer plumage adult Dunlin but there can be some confusion with the Juveniles and in winter plumage I would struggle to tell the difference between the two.

Curlew Sandpiper - moulting from summer to winter plumage

I was told that there was a Little Stint around but I did not manage to see it. There were Ringed Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers at various points across the lagoons. The bird below gave me a few problems. My initial thought was Kentish Plover but you need to look at the more obvious first. Its a juvenile and I think a juvenile Little Ringed Plover but I am not 100% sure.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover ?

Redshank, Curlew, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and families of Egrets all gave picture opportunities and there were Turnstones and Sanderling on the foreshore.


Little Egrets


 I then had a decision to make. I could see through the binoculars that a number of birders were gathering around Butts Lagoon. Do I go back or do I explore the rest of the marshes first? Then the panic sets in - its sure to be showing now and its going to fly away before I can get back there.

I didn't run but equally I didn't stop for any pictures on the way back. The bird was visible but it was hunkered down in the reeds on an island in the middle of the lagoon. Collins says that shape, action, and plumage suggest a cross between Snipe and Bar-tailed Godwits. For me its actions were much more Snipe like. In all the time I watched it did not move more than a foot from the reeds and when the other birds on the lagoon were spooked into the air it dived straight into the reeds to hide.

Snipe and the Snipe like Long-billed Dowitcher

Picture opportunities were limited. The bird stepped out of the reeds a few times to preen but it did not feed and it did not fly. With no chance of getting closer and with difficulty separating the bird from the reeds in the background it ended up as record shots only.

Staying close to the reeds

Showing barred tail feathers and white back

Facing up to local duck

Barred tail and white back

Long-billed Dowitcher

Perhaps disappointing as far as the pictures go but a great bird to see and a life tick for me.

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