Monday, 26 October 2015

Spot the Sandpiper...

Late last Saturday Dave Helliar picked up a 'Common Sand' on his local patch but alarm bells immediately rang as a) it was very late for a common sandpiper, b) it looked very short-tailed and c) its legs looked yellowish. Bear in mind this was at considerable distance and even with his scope on full 60x magnification, it was too far away to see any detail on the bird or be sure of its ID. He sent me a text which mentioned the words 'spotted sandpiper' but as the light had gone and it was so distant I shelved the idea of taking a look and thought no more of it.

Skip forward to Sunday. Dave was back on his patch first thing when news of the Pallas's Warbler broke. While phoning him he mentioned that the bird was still present and the legs still looked yellow but it was still fairly distant and moving around against a background which made it difficult to judge the colour accurately. Do I go and have a look now or do we head off to see the Pallas's Warbler? Well, the Pallas's won out as you can see from the previous post. No regrets there, it was a cracking little bird.

On the way home we decided to try and connect with the sandpiper, hoping it would be closer for better views. A quick scan of the area it had been frequenting revealed no sign of it at all. A few expletives later and we'd written it off as a 'maybe but we'll never know' and moved on to view another part of his patch. Within minutes Dave had picked it up walking amongst grass along the waters edge and yes, it certainly had bright yellow legs when viewed in sunlight against a green background! It was incredibly active and quite skittish but after a patient wait it came to within 50-60ft and we managed photos, video and excellent views that confirmed it was indeed a Spotted Sandpiper!

Hindsight is a great thing and had we spent the day getting better views of this one rather than going for the Pallas's, we could have got news out about it sooner (should be noted though that up until this last visit on Sunday afternoon, the bird had been on private land with no general access anyway). Unfortunately a thorough search of the area today was unsuccessful in relocating it and it has presumably moved on. A superb find by Dave and a fantastic bird to see locally. Look out Seaton it could be with you soon!

1st winter Spotted Sandpiper: Dave Helliar
1st winter Spotted Sandpiper: Dave Helliar
1st winter Spotted Sandpiper: Dave Helliar
1st winter Spotted Sandpiper: Dave Helliar
1st winter Spotted Sandpiper: Dave Helliar
Spotted Sandpiper: R. Harris

Spotted Sandpiper - showing classic features
of short tail and yellow legs: R. Harris
You can see that the tertial feathers appear very plain and the overall tone is much greyer when compared to the two Common Sandpipers further down the page.
Spotted Sandpiper - as close as it got on full zoom. 
Shows the dark breast-sides not forming a complete 
band. Usually more extensive on Common Sand: R. Harris
For comparison purposes, here are a couple of Common Sandpipers taken at Chard Res which conveniently show the longer tail, greenish legs, more complete breast band and well marked tertials. Spotted sands have a subtly different head shape too, which helps contribute to their characteristic jizz.

Your wish has been granted sir...

No sooner had I wished for a Pallas's Warbler (see last post), than one popped up in Somerset - only the 2nd County record at that! Unbeknownst to me Dave H. was checking Twitter regularly just like myself yesterday morning, when the news broke that one was showing by the track leading to the farm at Brean Down. After a quick phone call we were on our way within 20 minutes and on site well within the hour. The first birder we met said it hadn't been seen for an hour-and-a-half ! Strange because we were on site in less than an hour-and-a-half since the news broke? Anyhow, after a fairly short wait it was seen briefly flitting through some sycamores before disappearing again only to re-surface close to where it had been originally seen.

No photos or video unfortunately. Like most Pallas's Warblers this well-marked individual was buzzing around like a ferret on amphetamines giving clear but all too brief views before vanishing once more.

Now, what to wish for next...

Friday, 23 October 2015

Quiet times...

Things really seem to have gone quiet locally. With plenty of rare birds at either end of the country recently, this part of the West feels like we are in a black hole for goodies at the moment. Indeed I haven't seen a single scarce bird this Autumn, partly because work has been busy and I haven't been able to shoot off but also a distinct lack of twitchable rares within striking distance. Still, there have been a few spiders out-and-about in the cool, grey weather and I've still recorded Noctule, Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle up until a few days ago.

Lepthyphantes tenuis (just 2mm long): R. Harris
Mangora acalypha : R. Harris
Zygiella x-notata: R. Harris

A male Speckled Bush Cricket found its way into the bathroom too:

Speckled Bush Cricket: R. Harris
It's not too late for something good to put in an appearance - here's hoping for a Pallas's warbler in the next week or two.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A couple of smart Hovers...

The Ivy flowers in the hedgerows are attracting incredible numbers of insects at the moment. In Whitestaunton the dominant species is definitely this large fly, Mesembrina meridiana:

Mesembrina meridiana: R Harris
Closely followed by Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria:

Scathophaga stercoraria: R. Harris
But there are some really smart hoverflies attracted to them too, including these two (thanks Dave H. for providing their ID):

Helophilus pendulus: R. Harris
Sericomyia silentis: R. Haris
Sericomyia silentis: R. Haris
Spiders are still high on the agenda too with this lovely Larinioides cornutus seen in good numbers on a brief visit to Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels today. They are orb web spiders and use to belong to the Araneus family until a number of biological differences placed them into a family of their own along with 4 other species. They are frequently found in grass and reeds close to water where the females, like this one, make a hideaway out of dead grass heads.

Larinioides cornutus: R. Harris

This Linyphia was found in the garden but is more frequently seen in the hedgerows where is builds a horizontal web in bushes such as gorse.
Linyphia triangularis: R. Harris