Monday, 11 January 2016

In Search Of The Purple One

Here's a map...

You will notice two different types of symbols on this map of the East Devon/West Dorset coast.

The red lines represent the coastal boundaries of our patch, between the two is a distance of 10km which is quite a lot of coastline.

The blue dots represent where Purple Sandpipers are currently over wintering.  Do you notice a pattern?  I certainly do. Either side of our patch and you will undoubtedly see a Purple Sandpiper even if you spend the day looking through your binoculars backwards, but within our patch, no dots, no Purps. Not only aren't there any Purple Sandpipers wintering with us this year, but there are actually no records of Purple Sandpiper on the patch EVER!  I think we all know there probably have been Purple Sands here before, surely some have at least flown past?  But no one has seen any and that's what counts...

Anyway, one of my new years resolutions was to resolve this problem, and get Purple Sandpiper on the patch list.  For me the best chance has got to be the coastline east of the river mouth at Axmouth.  I tried for the second time this year earlier today, although the tide didn't go down as much as usual so far fewer rocks were exposed, the potential was still there...

Yet again though I drew a blank. And that's despite the extra help from four more legs...

We do have other bits of Purple Sandpiper-looking coastline, Seaton Hole for example, and around Beer Head.  But what I think makes these particular rocks the most likely option is that this is the only part of our rocky shoreline that regularly has wading birds on, even on today's few exposed rocks were two Oystercatchers and two Curlew.  It's not many I know, but in my experience birds attract birds - even if it is just four!

Knowing how unpredictable this birding game can be, when we do finally get a Purple Sand here it will probably be in with a flock of Dunlin feeding on Black Hole Marsh!  

Finally, sorry this hasn't come sooner, but Happy New folks. I really hope 2016 is a good and prosperous year for you all....not to mention bird-filled of course!


  1. Ahhh persistence will pay off eventually. As you say it would be just typical of our patch for the first one to not be on the coast! Glad to see Honey was helping. Can you imagine if Millie was there?!

    1. Any Purple Sand will do me to be honest. I just hope all my efforts aren't in vain....

  2. You will get one Steve, I have no doubt. It took me a while in Budleigh, they do seem pretty erratic out here. I had at least one on Sunday but none today.

  3. Odd isn't it. I've always thought the problem with these birds is that they stick like glue to their usual haunts (Lyme, Sidmouth). But in recent years with Budleigh and Exmouth attracting small numbers there clearly must be some winter movement...

  4. Steve, absence of Purple Sand from the Axe list is a frustrating gap, especially given the effort that's been put into the patch over the last decade or so. I'm sure it'll fall one day, but in the meantime you'll be amused to know it's on the West Bex and Cogden list! As far as I'm aware there isn't a rock bigger than a fist for miles in either direction!!
    My guess is either Seaton Hole, or a fly-past. If it's the latter, I'd advise company! ;o)

  5. Hey Gav - it's a crazy one and predicted every year! I think if it's one just dropping in on the way past Seaton Hole is a good bet, but if we were blessed with a lingering bird I'd say Axmouth best bet.