Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sweaty-palmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover, Hayling Island, Hampshire - Sunday 20th October 2013

A nice bird this one and often called a "birder's bird", on account of it being difficult to distinguish from Ringed Plover, especially in first-winter plumage. Personally, I think Ringed Plovers are fantastic birds, and a day comparing them and their nearest relative sounds great. A nice bird, and a rare one too: there are currently only three accepted records from the UK (Scilly Isles and two from Devon), plus a further two from Ireland with another pending. A nice bird, and a world tick for me too.

Semipalmated Plover (with Ringed Plovers), Hayling Island - Sunday 20th October 2013

A wider shot showing the Semipalmated Plover (front centre) with the Ringed Plover flock

The obvious difference between the Semipalmated and Ringed Plovers was the size. The Semi-P was smaller and slimmer. This was accentuated by the smaller bill, something which really helped when looking for it through the younger Ringed Plovers. The plumage was subtly different too. There was an absence of the black found on the larger birds, the white neck band appeared thinner, and there were contrasting white fringing on the primary coverts. The main ID feature for me, on close views, was the difference in the lores. The white on the young Semipalmated Plover extended above the gape line (i.e. over the top of the line of the bill). Unfortunately I didn't get good views of the legs or feet, or hear it call, but there were plenty of feature on show for a positive ID.

This bird had been found by Andy Johnson - well done! On the day I was there we had a nervous wait first thing, as the tide came in at Black Point. Some Ringed Plover came to the high-tide roost on the spit, but their American cousin was definitely not with them. At midday we all headed for the beach on the southern shore, and to everyone's relief, there it was - in a mixed roost of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. The flock was quite flighty, thanks to waves, spray, high winds, and an uncontrolled terrier (dog-walkers, please get a grip).

Early morning at Black Point, Hayling Island - Sunday 20th October 2013

Relief all round as the bird is found on the southern beach on Hayling Island
Sunday 20th October 2013

I'd encountered a lot of rain as I travelled through Hampshire, and the weather was pretty crazy as I arrived on the island itself around 08:00am. Fortunately, both me and the Semi-p avoided the tornado

I decided I'd make another attempt at some Two-barred Crossbills (my fifth attempt this year, at a third site). Big mistake. As I arrived at Hemsted Forest the heavens opened. I saw some type of Crossbills in flight distantly in the rain, along with some Chaffinches, but nothing. I stuck it out for as long as I could - even the hardly Lee Evans gave up before me - but it was a waste of time. The worst bit was finding my bag, and my camera, were completely full of water. The camera hasn't worked since... Bugger.

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