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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Spotted Sandpiper, etc. - on 14th July, 2011

Thursday found me with an evening turn of duty on Osprey Watch at Rutland Water, and reports of a Spotted Sandpiper in Manton Bay. After an early lunch, I set off on my journey eastwards. I stopped at my Little Owl Site No.21, near Hungarton, and sat in the car for a while not seeing an owl. After several scans of the nest tree and the surroundings I spotted a juvenile. Given the distance and the level of cover it had, I'd never have spotted it if it had kept its eyes closed!

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.21

I sat for another hour with nothing much visible, except the LO (which didn't do much), and some distant Brown Hares on the other side of the field.

Brown Hare - near Hungarton

Feeling the call of the Spotted Sandpiper, I decided it was time to go. First, however, I got out of my car and stealthily approached the nest tree in the hope of getting a better image of the juvenile. It was off and back into the nest cavity before I could get a shot in, so I had a quick look round the tree for any indications. It was on my way back to the car that I came across some Little Owl remains only about 20 metres from the nest tree. These had chewed-off feathers, and so I expect that a fox had been at work (I understand that Sparrowhawks pull feathers out so that you find the full feathers). My guess is that a juvenile had succumbed - maybe had tried fledging too early.

Little Owl remains - my Site No.21

Somewhat heavy-hearted I set off to Rutland Water. I was greeted at the Lyndon Visitor Centre with the news that the Spotted Sandpiper had recently been in front of Shallow Water Hide. I hightailed it down there, to find that it had moved left from in front of the hide, and although I managed some identifiable record shots, they were pretty awful. I kept watching as it moved further and further away. In the meantime I enjoyed watching Osprey chick 'Blue52' which had fledged the previous day, and the antics of its sibling 'Blue32' which was 'helicoptering' like mad and giving every indication of an early fledging.

Ospreys (adult female and three juveniles) - Rutland Water
To the left of where the Spotted Sand was headed, a Green Sandpiper was sitting. Although this was even more distant, its larger size meant that I could get a record shot.

Green Sandpiper - Rutland Lyndon
Further scanning revealed the arrival of a Common Sandpiper to the right of the hide - three sandpiper species in sight at one time!

Common Sandpiper - Rutland Lyndon

As it was getting near to the time that I had to leave to start my turn on duty at Waderscrape Hide I went back to look for the Spotted Sand and it had vanished, so I returned to the Common Sand which had been getting nearer to the hide from the right. Ah, there it was, much nearer. Hang on - that's the Spotted Sand!! To my delight, it slowly came past the hide, albeit at some distance on the shoreline, but it did allow for some somewhat better images.

Spotted Sandpiper - comparison of size with Lapwing
Spotted Sandpiper - comparison of size with Pied Wagtail!!!
Spotted Sandpiper - Rutland Lyndon

I don't suppose I'll ever see a Spotted Sand again, particularly an adult in summer plumage, so I took rather a lot of shots!! I was very pleased to get some images as it took to flight. It seemed that it had climbed up onto the tussock in order to get some height to aid take-off. If the spots weren't enough, the flight shots show the diagnostic wing bar being reduced towards the inner wing.

Spotted Sandpiper - taking to flight, showing diagnostic wing bar

On duty in Waderscrape Hide, there were plenty of visitors to talk with all evening, and enough action to keep everyone happy, with a pair of Ruddy Shelduck distantly adding to the interest. The Sedge Warblers were very active and showing even better than usual.

Sedge Warbler - Rutland Lyndon

On my way home that evening I stopped again at my Little Owl Site No.21, near Hungarton. For a while, nothing was visible, then an owl appeared on the distant barn. Shortly after this a second owl appeared in the gutter of the next-door barn, and then a third was running around on the ground in front of the first barn. These were a bit too far away to identify adult from juvenile, but I think that it was one adult and two juveniles. It was definitely a juvenile that flew from in front of the barn to the nest tree, and it was definitely an adult that was calling from the barn.

Little Owls - my Site No.21

Little Owl (juvenile) - my Site No.21

I possibly saw a fourth owl here moving around the nest tree - or it could have been one of the two from the barn that had arrived back at home, unseen by me. By now it was too dark to see much at all, and time for me to be heading for my own home. It had been a day to remember, but not entirely for the right reasons - I'm always sad to see a dead bird, but particularly when it's an owl.

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