17 Sept 2015

17 Sep 15 - The Canadians Are Here

It was a fairly quiet visit to the Studland patch: a few migrants, but nothing unusual. So I was about to head for home, when the pager went off to say a Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been found at the White Nothe. This is a set of high ploughed fields about the coast path a few miles to the East of Weymouth. I have only visited this place once before, to look for the last party of four Buff-breasted Sandpipers which were around for a few days in mid Sep 11. Not one of my best weeks in Dorset. I had the week off, but had managed to put my back out over the first weekend. Late on the Monday, 12 Sep 15, local Birder Nick Hopper had found the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper for Poole Harbour on Brownsea. But it was too late to get over & I was struggling to walk due to my back problems. The next morning, the back was a bit better & I got over, but the Buff-breasted Sandpiper had already moved on. Later that day, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers were found at the White Nothe, which later increased to four (until one was taken by a Peregrine). I spent several hours on the Wednesday failing to see them & only succeeded in severely knackering my back with a lot of walking & standing around. Fortunately, I was healthy for this new Buff-breasted Sandpiper & keen to finally see one in Dorset. As soon as some more accurate directions arrived, I was heading West from Studland. A shorter walk & some on site directions from the finder, Geoff Upton, to ensure I got the right field. As I got closer, the site of Brett Spencer standing looking through a scope made it obvious which point of the field I should be looking it. It was with a party of eleven Ringed Plovers & all were quickly seen. Buff-breast demons finally put to bed (well almost, as there haven't been any further Poole Harbour records to date).
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. Finally added to the Dorset List
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. I struggled to see my first Buff-breast properly. The first two were flying over Predannack airfield, but got attacked by a Merlin. One was killed & the other disappeared. The next dip was seeing one at Salthouse that my mates found. It was very distant & we walked along the beach to get a closer view. As Dave Bishop confirmed it was a Buff-breast, it flew (we weren't close) & disappeared off West for good. I finally had tickable views of one at Pennington on 25 Sep 1982
Twenty minutes after I arrived the flock suddenly took off & flew. Fortunately, they landed in the next field, but not as close. Over the next two hours, the Ringed Plovers came closer, but the Buff-breasted Sandpiper kept its distance. Finally, it decided to walk a lot closer to the path & this coincided with the strongest sunlight. Perfect.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. Keeping an eye on the sky was important, given there was a Peregrine around
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Juv. They have an amazing migration from breeding in the high Canadian Arctic & wintering in the Southern end of South America. Many migrate South over the Atlantic, but they run the risk of fast moving depressions sweeping then across to Europe
For the sharp-eyed, you might have spotted the Post title says Canadians, but there was only one Buff-breasted Sandpiper. But arguably Dorset's sharpest id geek, Brett Spencer, had been looking at the Ringed Plover flock. In his opinion, these weren't our regular Ringed Plovers, but the high Canadian Arctic breeding race, psammodroma. Brett has provided his rationale on his Blog (here). I must admit like the other Birders that morning, I would have probably have not thought about the origin of the Ringed Plovers, so hats off to Brett.
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
Ringed Plover: Race psammodroma
While I was watching the Waders, I looked in the grass in front of me & saw a couple of Roesel's Bush Crickets. This attractive Bush Cricket is rapidly expanded its range West in Dorset. In the last decade, it has spread through the Poole & Purbeck area. I know it has been seen further West in Dorset, but I can't remember where these sightings were. But I'm glad to see some more Roesel's Bush Crickets.
Roesel's Bush Cricket: Female