September 6th   Leave a comment

If at first you don’t succeed…Back to Balcomie Beach and a successful curlew sandpiper hunt today. Luckily this time at low tide, when the beach is much more resilient to people. The waders can retreat to the other side of the beach when someone walks across – at high tide there is little space away from people. I appreciate this because I had to watch someone walking out to take some photos of the shorebirds with their phone (you do have to get close): this is fair enough, if a bit of a futile wild shorebird chase but less so when it happens right in front of your telescope and you are sitting, in a well-behaved fashion, at the top of the beach. Most people get it and walk behind me when I am watching something, but occasionally they spectacularly don’t. Anyway, the curlew sandpiper bounced about all over the beach staying out of the way, but did not leave. A nice bird, and standing out among the dunlins – longer legs and neck giving a much more elegant and slender look, and a much paler and uniform plumage. You have to get your eye in, but once you have, they are very distinctive. I realise I write something like this every time a curlew sandpiper turns up in Crail but they are one of the landmark species in the journey to becoming a good birder: being able to pick out a curlew sandpiper in a flock of dunlin is a qualification you have to pass, like being able to split common and arctic terns, tree and meadow pipits, ringed and little ringed plovers and so on (more or less forever because there are always the antwrens and the petrels even for the very, very good birders). I was happier cycling back to Crail than my return last night although my slow progress reminded me that the winds are still firmly from the west.

The curlew sandpiper at Balcomie this afternoon – you can really see how slender and curlew like they look – but small of course, with the ringed plover on the right for scale (WC)
The curlew sandpiper and a couple of dunlin on the left to show how different they are. You can also just see its white rump poking out – it is a great feature when you only get a flyby (WC)
The curlew sandpiper close up (JA)

Posted September 6, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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