Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chasing the American

Sometimes you go looking for one thing and find another; it's a cliché but it's also true. Yesterday was a classic example. Four hours into work and news came in from Ross Ahmed that he had an American or Pacific Golden Plover on Black Law, a small island in the channel between Ross Back Sands and Holy Island. The distance between Guile Point from where he was viewing and the island causing some difficulty in clinching the ID. I phoned Ross back after a couple of hours by which time he was happy he had sorted it as an American Golden Plover a probable 1st-summer.

With a couple of hours spare post-shift I decided to have a crack at it. A long shot as a further three hours had passed, the tide had changed and it was a 40 minute drive followed by an hour's yomp north to Guile Point. "I need the exercise" I thought. An hour and one Wheatear later I arrived at Guile Point, as I expected there wasn't anyone within two miles of where I was on a perfect sunny afternoon.

I spent two hours searching Black Law by scope cutting a Robinson Crusoe-like figure sat on the sand a couple of metres from the lapping tide. The small pebbled island topped with a single sand dune with some sparse Marram Grass vegetation and the occasional piece of driftwood was alive with waders. Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits made up the bulk, the godwits ranged from some adults still in summer plumage to grey juveniles. Closer to the water orange-breasted Knot filled the gaps between pebbles with the occasional Redshank standing taller. Higher up the island a couple of dozen Ringed Plovers crouched between the higher pebbles and a single juvenile Grey Plover did a grand job of confusing me for a good while by roosting face on, head tucked in; being the only large 'plover' on the island and roosting well away from the crowds. As the tide rose a small number of Golden Plover added to the mix.

A few metres away a small roost of Knot gathered a few metres away on my side of the channel, the tide gradually pushing them closer. I lost myself over two hours, the only sound the breeze across the water and the occasional wader calling. As the tide rose dark eclipse Common Eiders began to slip through the narrow channel in front of me into the food rich Lindisfarne NNR. and groups of terns broke the silence heading the same way. The nearby Knot became restless and moved off.

I gradually became aware that whilst I may be watching I was also being watched as the Grey Seals also moving through the channel got curious about me and kept popping up just out in the channel opposite me.

Reluctantly I started the walk back, offshore 800 Common Eider had a few Common Scoter amongst them and a couple of Sanderlings  were mixed in with Ringed Plovers along the 2 mile stretch of unmarked sand back south. As I wearily trudged back into the hamlet of Ross in a light shower a flock of c.100 Goldfinch followed by 30+ Pied Wagtails and 5 Yellow Wagtails offered the chance to rest before the drive home.

The American may have let me down but I had a dream afternoon in a special place, a rare treat even without the rare.


Errol said...

Those sorts of afternoons stick in the mind for years, the sheer magic of being quietly in amongst all those goings-on along the shoreline. Brill post, Alan, and smashing pics.

alan tilmouth said...

Thanks Errol, it's certainly a magical place.