A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A super sandpiper weekend - Baird's at Worcestershire & Semipalmated in Hampshire

Having almost completed the extensive collection of sandpipers on the British list with just 4 remaining (Least, Upland, Baird’s and Semipalmated) it was a nice surprise when a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper turned up at Upton Warren in Worcestershire, just over an hour down the road.

With the bird still present the next morning, we made the trip down the M6 in an effort to see this attractive sandpiper, and duly paying our £3 permit fee, headed over to the furthest hide on the reserve where the Baird’s had been showing.
Upton Warren - Worcestershire
With a juvenile Ruff also present for company, we soon locked on to the much smaller Baird’s, busily feeding on the far edge of the flash in the mud and working its way around the pool. Despite the distance making any decent photographs impossible, the views through the scope were excellent - the beautiful patterns on the back standing out even at range and the distinctive elongated profile created by the long primary projection clearly defined.
Baird's Sandpiper, Upton Warren, Worcestershire
Baird's Sandpiper, Upton Warren, Worcestershire
Terrible phonescoped record shots of the Baird's! 
With a long, thin body and shorter legs, Baird’s Sandpipers are one of the most distinctive American peeps that make it over the Atlantic, and despite never coming in front of the hide during my visit as it has been doing on the following days, it was still fantastic to see and is now firmly in place as one of my favourite American sandpipers.

With a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Titchfield Haven also being retrospectively ID’d from photographs on Saturday evening (it was originally thought to be a Little Stint by on site observers), this provided the perfect opportunity to make it a double sandpiper weekend. Semi-ps have been a particular nemesis bird of mine for a while now, having previously dipped 2 in the past while a third bird at Hoylake could never be narrowed down from either a Semipalmated or Western Sandpiper.

Despite being over 3 hours away, the fact that the Semi-p was showing particularly well and still present the next morning saw us head down to Hampshire in the glorious sunshine in search of my second American sandpiper of the weekend.
Titchfield Haven NNR - Hampshire
Arriving at the hide and with the Semi-p instantly on show on a distant muddy bank, it took all of 5 seconds of viewing before the whole scrape was flushed! Potential nightmare! Luckily, the Semi-p and associating Little Stint didn’t go far, instead flying closer on to one of the smaller islands and providing the perfect opportunity to study the subtle differences between these two exceptionally similar species.
Semipalmated Sandpiper - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire
Semipalmated Sandpiper showing well!
Being roughly the same size (the Semi-p was a touch smaller than the Little Stint), the Little Stint was slightly brighter marked than the Semipalmated’s uniform grey colour, also demonstrating marginally darker and blacker legs in comparison. The lack of white tram lines on the back of the Semi-p was also conspicuous, allowing us to easily separate the two at a glance.
Semipalmated Sandpiper and Little Stint - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire
Spot the difference! The Semi-p is on the left while the Little Stint is on the right
As with the Semipalmated Sandpipers we saw in New York last year, I again got the impression of a slim bodied wader, slightly thinner than the Little Stint’s dumpier posture which again proved a useful characteristic in the field for separating the two.
Semipalmated Sandpiper - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire
Often hard to distinguish from the similar Western Sandpipers in America (such as the tricky Hoylake peep several years agao) the lack of any fiery tones in the upper scapulars as shown on Westerns and the shorter, straighter bill all aided in confirming the identification of what I consider to be quite a hard species to ID.
Semipalmated Sandpiper - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire
Luckily, the Semi-p flew right in front of the hide before we left, offering amazing views and emphasising the point that it is far more satisfactory to travel a longer distance for a bird that shows well than to get poor views of a bird that perhaps isn’t as far.

Alex's super video of the Semi-p - a big thanks to him for making the epic drive too

A great weekend full of sandpiper success and hopefully the start of what promises to be a fruitful autumn as far as American vagrants are concerned. 

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