6 Sep 2008

Lamarckism in progress.

Lamarck was right! I've just seen his theory of evolution in progress. With a Semi-palmated Sandpiper showing well all week at Dawlish Warren (see Gary Thorburns photographs on Surfbirds) I decided to jump in with Al Orton yesterday in the hope of getting my own photographs.

We left Cheshire at 06.15 in rain but with the promise that the weather would improve around 10.00 at Dawlish. It didn't and we arrived in torrential rain and high winds. Not really the kind of weather to belooking for a small Calidrid on an exposed beach. We searched the areas where the bird had been habitating but no sign - it didn't help much that the storm surge had reduced the area of beach to the size of a postage stamp. Up and down we wandered whilst being blasted by sand and salt spray. Eventually Al had to go back and get some dry clothes from the car. The sun miraculously appeared and the rain eased and I decided to check the beach further along towards the point as Al rejoined me. By now several other birders had appeared. Spotting a small group of Dunlin right up against the marram grass we checked it out and Al found our quarry straight away but it disappeared into the marram. Setting the 'scope up I confirmed the I.D and we called the others over. We watched it for about 10 -15 minutes beofre all the waders flew. Half the flock settled near us and the other half flew towards the Bight.
I've never been so wet (the camera never came out of the bag but was still soaked and spent the night in the airing cupboard). We picked the wettest day of the year to stand on an exposed beach looking for a small displaced wader with semi -palmated feet. I swear its palmations were growing as we watched it. It'll soon be a fully palmated sandpiper so perhaps Lamarck was right after all! Poor little sod will need them if this weather continues.

We left Dawlish at 13.45, after refuelling with chips and having to bump start the car due to a dead battery, expecting a leisurely journey home arriving in Cheshire in plenty of time for Al to get showered, changed and fed ready for work at 20.45. Wrong! The heavy rain had caused complete chaos with accident after accident delaying our progress. Eventually we turned off the M5 and headed cross country through Shropshire - a county under water! We arrived home after a gruelling 6hr journey.

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