Thursday, 7 October 2021

Pastry v's Purp

Purple Sandpiper is probably the most surprising gap on the Axe patch list.  Never recorded here, despite the fact you can practically see five different wintering Purple Sandpiper sites from various parts of the patch.

What is almost just as surprising is that despite my many hours of seawatching over 18 or so years, and having seen countless flocks of small waders flying over the sea, I've not even had a possible.  Not one. Not a single wader that made me think "oh was that a..."  Well until this morning, it finally happened. Today I had a possible Purple Sandpiper on patch.

Moody skies over Seaton Bay.  A moody Steve too just after this pic was taken!

It was about 08:10 when I casually strolled up to Ian Mc who was seawatching by the Spot On Kiosk.  Ian was set up like any competent and efficient seawatcher, whereas I rocked up like a causal amateur munching a pan au chocolat with my bins hanging off my shoulder.  But before Ian had even had time to tell me what he'd seen, I spotted a small flock of waders flying low west over the sea, close in, and called them out. But I wasn’t prepared for them at all.

My bins eventually met my eyes and I quite quickly concluded they were Dunlin, and not the other likely small wader options of Sanderling or Ringed Plover, and that there were seven of them.  But then it struck me, hit me like a sledge hammer, that the third bird in from the front was dark, much darker.  It looked a similar size to the others, and then a flash of its underside revealed a clear pale belly and a dark pectoral area. "There's a much darker bird in their Ian!".

And with that they were gone.  The flock turned more southerly and disappeared into the waves so quickly that Ian didn't even have time to line his scope up on them.  Gone for good.  And that was the moment, the moment I had my first ever possible Purple Sandpiper on patch. Fluffed partially because of a delicious chocolate-filled pastry. 

Ian spent almost two hours seawatching in the end, and came away with a few Arctic Skuas, good numbers of Common Scoter, excellent numbers of Gannets, three Balearic Shearwaters, two species of divers and some Brent Geese.  So not a bad watch at all for him. My inept and brief efforts returned a few Gannets and that flock of waders!

Before I reached the beach, and ruined my day, it was going ok as I'd just seen a flock of five Pintail fly in from the north and drop in on the Estuary, my first of the autumn.  As well as a Ruff feeding with the Black-tailed Godwit flock on Axe Marsh.  There was disappointingly little vismig, but it was overcast and foggy on the surrounding hill tops so not all that much of a surprise really.

My moth trap is out tonight. With slightly warmer night time temperatures I thought it was worth a try, fingers crossed!


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