Friday, 21 September 2012

19-21/09 - Wheels Keep Turning

Errands on Wednesday resulted in less time than previous days so I opted for a hike along the River Blyth. The wader selection was a little disappointing (where are all the Dunlin?) and after a half hour most of the small waders were flushed by a low-flying adult Peregrine. I forgave the aforementioned falcon after it spent the next 10 minutes gliding and soaring around the estuary in perfect sunshine affording stunning aerial views.

Thursday brought rain and as it had been accurately forecast it was a work day, almost completing some writing work I have an impending deadline for as well as some other domestic tasks. A Robin on the front lawn and the loud calls of an unseen Blackcap in an Elder behind the house the only birds for the day.

This morning I had planned to sea-watch but with the wind starting out lighter than forecast and some early morning sunshine likely to make viewing conditions poor I opted for a journey north to look for the two Buff-breasted Sandpipers found by Ross Ahmed a few days ago at Goswick. I walked in from the golf club onto Cheswick Sands and after successfully rounding a small gull roost without flushing them quickly located one of the Buff-breasts. Feeding with around 200 Dunlins and a similar number of Ringed Plovers I spent 30 minutes out on the sands just enjoying this smart looking yank, the first I've seen for several years, mostly it fed alone and further away from the water's edge than the other waders. I enjoyed uninterrupted views but stayed far enough back to avoid flushing anything, so photographically I was quite distant. I added a 2.0x converter to my kit in recent days extending the reach of the lens (Thanks Dom, it arrived Thursday) the downside is the lack of autofocus which is removed. So this morning was a trial run of going 'commando' or fully manual on the camera. Immediately apparent that capturing sharp images, especially hand-held will be a challenge.

The next few hours were spent grilling the Dunlin, some great variation including a couple of small, very short-billed individuals. On both occasions I initially thought I was looking at another species, perhaps a stint or something better but both birds turned out to be Dunlin. The small size and short bill have me thinking they may well have been arctica race Dunlin but there's not a great deal of material or images available showing the different Dunlin races.No reason why some of these NE Greenland breeders shouldn't occur on the east coast especially after the recent prevailing wind direction. Lots of ringed plovers in the same area, to be honest I was a bit fed up of looking at (or at least trying to) gape-lines by the time I moved on.
Further encounters today included a single Short-eared Owl off the Straight Lonnen, two Curlew Sandpipers and a Ruff at Elwick Flash. Oh and I bumped into a couple of old Tractors too!

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