Tuesday 28 August 2012

Sanderling and Baird's Sandpiper, West Angle Bay, Pembrokeshire Wales, 27/8/2012

00.30 hours, we set off, 270 miles, for West Angle Bay, Pembrokeshire, SW Wales.

It was a long drive, we arrived at a car park about 06.30 hours to a superb morning with a smashing view looking out over the beach of a small bay. It is nearly low tide.

M.S. and Kevin set out immediately to scour the whole beach area looking for a Baird's Sandpiper that had been reported to have been in this area all week !  I kept one eye open from the car, the Baird's had been reported as very difficult to spot, (let them do the finding, then I will go down and photograph it ! ). They should find this easy enough and we will be on way somewhere else by 10 o'clock !

About 5 or 6 other birders turned up in the next hour, I watched them all scour every part of the area, I had a snooze ! ! No Baird's Sandpiper.

M.S. was photographing Rock Pipits down on the rocks, I did not have the energy ! ! I stayed in the car.

First excitement of the day was about 09.00 hours, a  Spoonbill, a very good view from the car as it flew by.

By now all the birders were back at the car park, still no Baird's Sandpiper !

11.00 hours, now the holiday makers, all the families turn up, they are heading for a day on the beach ! Deckchairs, Windbreaks, Frisbees, Canoes, Boats, the car park is full, we have come 270 miles, seen nothing, and now there is no where to escape ! And I am still sitting in the car !

I go of for a walk on my own along the cliff path, I check every cove, Rock Pipits, a single Goldfinch and a Common Buzzard is about all i could find, i missed two passing distant Chough.

Back to the car, the others have got no other ideas of what to do, its getting to be a bit of a disaster day !
The ice cream van has turned up now, a sneaky ice cream and back for another snooze in the car ! I am shattered now, for more reasons but one ! The beach is now packed, everybody is enjoying themselves to the maximum, (i mean those families on the beach).

Around about 14.00 hours, we give up and decide to have a look at Angle Bay, only about a mile away. Once again, more holiday makers, boats and a what appeared to be some Pub Garden Festival, this is not where we wanted to be.

15.00 hours, we are back at West Angle Bay, the only good thing was that by chance we got our 'Pole Position' back in the car park, it's now M.S.'s turn to snooze. Kevin is in the back saying nothing, a half hour goes by, still nothing said, now I think, the beach is starting to clear of people ! I think I will go for a walk on the beach, I take no camera, no bins, still to many people.

I get to the tide line on the quietest point on the beach, I see a single bird feeding on the tide line, people are passing close to it but I am to distant to recognise what it is, the light is good, I don't care what it is, I am going to photograph it !  I hurry back to the car, pick up the camera and bins, I mention to Kevin, he is out of the car immediately, we go back to the beach, of course it's a Sanderling, but a very pretty Sanderling.

I start to take a few photo's of the Sanderling, incredibly, I stand there taking its photograph, it is feeding back and forward in front of me, I paused to let two people walk between me and the bird, the Sanderling then came within 6 feet of me, to close to photograph.

Kevin is standing 30 feet behind me when suddenly he calls me, he is super excited, he has just heard a bird call, one that he has never heard before, he has heard and seen the Baird's Sandpiper fly over ! ! He is pointing to an area where he thinks it landed briefly then flew off. At this minute, by chance, M.S. is heading down the beach towards us, he has woken and seen me photographing the Sanderling.  A woman and young boy are trying to catch our attention, they are pointing at something very close to themselves, we can not see anything, we get closer, then with great difficulty we see the Baird's Sandpiper not 10 feet from the woman.

The doom and gloom of the day is forgotten immediately, action stations, M.S. is off back to the car for his tripod, then starts an hour of intense watching of the Baird's Sandpiper, up close views with a 'few'
photographs taken !

Its now about 17.30 hours, the clouds are coming over, the light is beginning to fail rapidly, it' all happened just in time, it has now started to light rain !

Were are back at the car, the mood is good, M.S. had sent texts to the morning birders who had departed and put the news out, the Birmingham chaps had raced back 50 miles, they were told where the Baird's was but it was obvious to us at the car, they could not see or find it, M.S. diamond geezer he is, went down and put them on it, 'it is that difficult to see', even if you are within 20 feet of it !

Then for me, the 170 miles drive towards home, 'OUCH', it was hard !  M.S. the last 100 miles.

I dropped the chaps off at their home at 00.30 hours, a 24 hour excursion, a SUPERB day out, well, well, worth it for an encounter with a Baird's Sandpiper.

It was a crazy day, with two crazy people, M.S. and Kevin.


I picked them up again 6 and a half hours later, 07.00 hours, because that how it is.

Its a very strong SW wind, good for sea watching, we arrive at Dungeness at 08.00 hours, we see a lot people up at the point by the fishing boats, what do we decide to do ? Go up to the 'patch'.
BIG MISTAKE we find out later !

At the patch

Black Terns, 8+
Little Gull, 2
Kittiwake, 2

Kev see's a few passing Great Skuas

around the moat and scrub area

Wheatear, 4

and very little else.

Bumping into people now leaving the fishing boats we hear of

Artic Skuas, Long-tailed Skuas, Pom Skuas and Great Skuas,
200+ Black Terns and a few Balearic Shearwaters passing the fishing boats.

I guess (we also) missed out 'big time' ! ! !

The weather was as forecast, it became cloudy and dull. Our day went onto visiting the ARC Pit site, breakfast, then a brief visit to Elmley followed up to Oare Marsh. The clouds rolled in, no photos taken, the holiday weekend over.