Monday, 4 September 2017

Frampton Marsh 25th August

With a sneaky day off organised and Mrs Caley able to take a days holiday we decided to head back to Frampton Marsh again. The weather forecast was much better with sunshine promised for the whole day, so I was hoping to get some decent views of wading birds and some decent photos too.

Arriving around 09:00 we headed straight to the 360 hide which was already fairly full. We managed to get seated and looked out onto a huge throng of birds, probably about 2000 dunlin and 3000 black-tailed godwits plus smaller numbers of avocets and ringed plovers. Within seconds of setting up our scope the whole mass of birds took flight and reeled around in front of the hide indicating the presence of an aerial predator. 

dunlin flock
Then, and without any warning, a juvenile peregrine slammed into the dirt no more than 20 metres away with a loud thwack and emerged with an unfortunate dunlin grasped in it's talons! Such drama and something I've never witnessed before at such close quarters. The power and agility of a hunting peregrine is one of natures great spectacles. I quickly reeled off some frames and was pleased to find later that at least a couple of them were usable!

juvenile peregrine
The wading flocks continued to be wary and stayed some distance away from the hide (in keeping with last Friday albeit for a different reason). They had good reason to as well since shortly after another peregrine, this time an adult, passed by although it showed no interest in pursuing a meal.

adult peregrine
Birds continued to be nervous for some time but after a while some began to edge closer to us in the hide. I spotted a wood sandpiper emerge from the flocks and settle briefly on a small island about 50 metres away but before I could get a photo it was off again. A few waders settled directly in front of the hide giving the excellent views that Frampton Marsh is well known for. A common sandpiper fed along a line of tall grass and defended its patch against some ringed plovers and a couple of juvenile little ringed plovers,  providing nice comparison between the two species. Pied wagtails and meadow pipits were similarly ousted to the margins but the bigger redshank and lapwing were left unmolested.
common sandpiper
juvenile little ringed plover
ringed plover
meadow pipit
pied wagtail
A pair of barnacle geese flew in and rested for a short time before heading off again. Part of a local feral flock. A fine juvenile ruff came advancing down a channel and fed alongside the redshank and a skylark dropped in for a quick bath. Little egrets were patrolling the water and a pair of spoonbills stood idly on a distant island. Some spotted redshanks stood dozing, heads tucked away.

barnacle geese
juvenile ruff
little egret

I turned my attention to the water channel that runs along the western side of the hide and where I had seen the wood sandpiper the previous Friday. Immediately a wader caught my eye working the muddy edge close to the electric fence posts about 50 metres away. I knew instantly that it was different and after noting its salient features decided that I had a pectoral sandpiper! The last pectoral sandpiper that I saw was in Cornwall last year where, thanks to the actions of an overenthusiastic birder, had sent a very close bird away to a distant island where scope views were just about good enough to clinch ID. He then took great delight in showing me some crippling photos that he'd taken earlier! So this was really good to get decent views of this uncommon American visitor. The pectoral band was really striking and even though my views were into the sun, all the important features could be seen well. All good practise for the future should I ever encounter one on the local wetland reserve. I got Mrs Caley on to the bird which had now moved much closer and also shared it with several other birders who had arrived in the hide. At one point it fed just metres away allowing for some proper shots of my own and burying the bad experience of the Cornwall bird. I have now seen 4 pectoral sandpipers in the UK. A ruff was the only other bird feeding in the channel.

pectoral sandpiper
We moved on and out to the rest of the reserve taking in the pools to either side of the access road. We noted snipe, avocet, black-tailed godwit and dunlin but no sign of the wood sandpiper. Greenshanks were seen too but were some way away. A red-necked phalarope had been frequenting the pools by the sea wall but there was no sign of it. Only 2 yellow wagtails were seen compared to over 40 last week. and in general there were fewer birds around than the week before. 
black-tailed godwits
little egret
dunlin & ruff
Time was pressing on so we called it a day having had yet another excellent day by the Lincolnshire coast at this most fabulous of reserves. How I wish that the birds were as accessible and in the numbers on Otmoor as they are here! I envy folk who have Frampton Marsh on their doorstep!

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