Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The first Autumn Watch.

I hadn't been down to Backsands scrape for a considerable time and as it is fast approaching the optimum time for a decent wader rarity I decided that today would be a good day to look.

On the way through I popped into Restharrow Scrape and was amazed at how quickly the water level had dropped. It seems to have attracted this young Heron that was stalking round the shallow water in search of a snack.

As usual there were lots of crows of various species. At this time of year there are lots of young Rooks around that don't have the characteristic white bill of the adult.

The Heron had a fly around and dropped in in front of the hide.

Although this is a young bird, it is sufficiently experienced to make a graceful landing.

As well as the Heron and Mallards there were a few other birds, at least one Common Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover were the pick, although they didn't come with camera range.

Backsands Scrape sometimes offers closer views of waders, and I had put my bike in the back of the car. It can be a long walk with little to see, so although my knees are not too keen on cycling saving about three quarters of an hour for the return journey is well worth the effort. As expected the most obliging waders today were the Green Sandpipers. There were more than a dozen around and I got some very close views from the "photographers" hide.

They were actively feeding most of the time But I can't make out what they were catching.

Although Green Sandpipers aren't as elegant as their close relative the Wood Sandpiper they are busy little waders and make good subjects.

Green Sandpipers are very early migrants, with return passage starting as early as 10th June in Finland. By the second half of June they reach most northern European countries ans the main passage is in July.

Females return before the males. One parent normally the female leaves their territory by the end of May or early June, meaning that it was only present there for 3-4 weeks. In contrast the can spend up to eight and a half months in their mid-European wintering grounds.

I left the small hide and went to the other side of the scrape. From the hide there I watched this fox pass very close to where I'd been sitting, but I doubt if it would have come so close had I still been in residence.

There were a few (three or four) Common Sandpipers around, and as usual when they got too close to each other a territorial dispute often arose. For a small wader they do seem particularly quarrelsome even away from their breeding territories.

I noticed at the far end of the scrap a female Tufted Duck with four small young. Good to see that they've bred here. I hope she keeps them well out of range of the fox, I'm sure duckling is high on his culinary agenda.

There were three Greenshanks, in their normal sleepy state, to the right of the hide and two or three others feeding in far flung corners of the scrape. It is a while before they will reach their peak numbers.

One last shot of a Green Sandpiper that settled down just in front of me. It's always good when the water is still and there's a nice reflection.

Just as I was getting ready to leave I saw a distant falcon heading straight towards me. At first I thought it was a Peregrine, but when it got close enough to see properly it revealed itself as a Hobby.
It caused a bit of panic in the Linnets that were around, but after spending a few minutes circling around it disappeared off, over my head and heading north. It was then back to the bike and a pedal back to the car. It was at this point that I realised what a good present Pam had bought me a couple of years ago, when she got me a very comfortable padded saddle. It really helps to prevent a dose of farmers. One disappointment was the lack of Hares on either journey. Hopefully they'll be around next time.


Susan said...

The sandpipers are lovely. As a naturalist not very focused on birds I rarely look at these little waders in enough detail to remind myself of their subtle appeal.

Derek Faulkner said...

The thing that always fascinates me about Green Sandpipers is that when you get them in view through a pair of binoculars they look nothing like the black and white bird that flies away from you, they are much paler. When I first became a birdwatcher it took me ages to identify them because they looked nothing like they do in books.

Alan Pavey said...

Some really nice photos Tony of a sometimes easily overlooked little wader. Well done with the Bedstraw Hawkmoth!