22 Sep 2012

Wirral peep show

I was in Sweden on Wednesday when Steve rang me to tell me Allan had found a Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Meols. Two days later the bird was still there but debate is raging over its identity with some people thinking its a juvenile Western Sandpiper.

With a funeral to attend Friday morning I couldn't get to the coast until early afternoon. Luckily for me the bird was on view when I first arrived but promptly flew west down the foreshore before I got decent views. By now it was raining quite hard so I drove through the back streets to come out on the one way system along the prom close to the bus shelters where Allan was watching along with Eddie Williams. The bird had flown straight past rather than settling on the spartina and so I headed west to Kings Gap where a large group of birders were watching an even larger flock of mixed calidrids. The weather was now evil as only Wirral birders can know with the wind and the rain coming straight into your face. Jase Atkinson, Colin Jones, Mark Turner, Colin Davis & Andy Vincen were amongst the crowd scanning the flock as the tide came further in when suddenly a visiting birder from Shropshire, Anthony Griffiths, announced he'd got a White-rumped Sandpiper. Instant pandemonium as people struggled in the adverse weather to get on the bird and phone calls were made to other locals who'd gone home to get warm! Desperate for a pee I stuck with it trying to pick up the bird in the scope and then the camera.

Suddenly the whole flock flew as a dog rampaged through the flock. Colin Davis tracked it east but lost it as the flock split up. Walking back to where I'd parked to check a portion of the flock near the lifeboat station I got a call from Zac Hinchcliffe to say he and Alex Jones were watching it about a 100 m away. Nice one lads.

Despite the inclement weather I got some record shots which at least show what the bird is!

By now my bladder was seriously complaining, I was soaking wet and so was the camera (despite being in a 'shower proof' bag. When Simon Slade cadged a lift back to where he'd left his car about 1/2 mile away I took the opportunity to relieve myself at the infamous public toilets where Mr C & Al Orton picked up a Little Shearwater a few years ago. Phew. Pressure off then, in more ways than one, with two good Cheshire peeps under the belt.

Just as I'd got back into the Landrover and was heading back down the prom Mark T rang me to say he and Eddie had the Semi-Western from the bus shelter on the spartina! At least now the rain was only torrential and not monsoon and by the time I got there it had reduced to a heavy shower with the peep showing well about 50 m away.

It was a manic little bird, always on the move and a belligerent little beggar squaring up to the larger Dunlin and Sanderling on occasions. As the tide ebbed the flock dispersed just before Mark Payne & Phil Locker arrived but luckily Steve relocated the bird after I'd left and they both got to see it.

After the crap weather of Friday this morning dawned calm and clear - a beautiful autumnal morning materialised as the early morning mist dispered on Hilbre. A few birds were caught and proof of the arrival of autumn, if needed, was provided by the range of species. Goldcrests, Robins and a single Chiffchaff. Star bird though was a cracking first calender year Stonechat which I was fortunate enough to be allowed to ring - thanks Colin & Steve!


Adam Jones said...

Some really great shots of the little fella. Think it's going to be very difficult to get a definitive ID on him.

Phil Woollen. said...

Hi Adam.
Don't think theres much debate it at the moment! Semi-P