Sandpiper shenanigans

We were in Downham Market yesterday when the text came through saying that a  White-rumped Sandpiper was still present, on the reed-bed at Frampton Marsh RSPB, for it’s second day. We finished off our business, bought some lunch at Tesco and headed towards Boston. We reached the reserve by about 12.00 and bumped into a local Peterborough birder in the car park, who said that the sandpiper was still showing on the reed-bed lagoon, from the path by the Visitor’s Centre. We followed his directions but could see nothing out of the ordinary on the lagoon. There were a couple of other birdwatchers wandering around but no one was on the bird. We decided to walk to the hide overlooking the lagoon but, as we got to the track to 360 hide, I noticed a small ‘peep’ feeding in amongst the Godwits, on the other lagoon. Relocating to the hide, we initially lost sight of the bird and no one in the hide was apparently looking at anything interesting.  Jane returned to the original spot to try to get a fix on the bird’s location, whilst I continued searching. Eventually I found it ‘tucked up’ on a nearby sand spit, alerted others to it’s whereabouts and, assuming it was the White-rumped Sandpiper, began to ‘grill’ it. Other birdwatchers confirmed that this was indeed the same bird that they had been watching earlier but as I studied the bird I became increasingly uncomfortable with it’s identification. It was particularly well marked on it’s back, with a few very noticeable white edged black scapular feathers (subsequently helping to confirm that pictures taken of the ‘White-rumped’ the day before were indeed this same bird), the whole structure of the bird was attenuated towards the rear end, there was a distinct buff pectoral band, the weak supercilium joined with a pale area above the bill – which was all black and thin and the bird’s appearance from head-on was of a low, squat, ‘bread-roll’ shape – all features suggesting Baird’s Sandpiper.  However, as it preened, it did show clean white feathering along the flanks, giving the impression of a possible white rump. We continued to study the bird and I took some grab-shots through the scope. It eventually walked out of view – with everyone except me being convinced that this was indeed a White-rumped. We quickly relocated the bird from the track and watched until it eventually flew – and guess what, no white rump, instead the bird showed a thick dark central tail stripe running up over it’s rump! As we headed towards the centre to inform the staff  another text came through saying that the bird had been re-identified as Baird’s, by Josh Jones at Birdguides, from photos sent in the night before. Well done and very brave Josh! We alerted the guy in the centre who quickly telephoned the warden, John Badley. On his arrival we explained what had happened, I showed him my photos and we began searching for the bird again on reed-bed lagoon, where the bird had flown to. The bird was relocated and although distant, John was sure this was the same bird that had been present since Tuesday evening. During the afternoon a growing crowd watched the bird until finally any doubts as to it’s id were dismissed when it eventually flew, revealing it’s dark rump – pheew!!  Digipics of the Baird’s Sandpiper:

DSC03685 DSC03687 DSC03695 DSC03692 DSC03680

This was a ‘First’ for Frampton and only the fifth for Lincolnshire.

Postscript: For an interesting comparison, here are a couple of photos of White-rumped Sandpiper I took in the Falklands last year – see ‘Falklands foray…Feb 2012.


IMG_9503…and as a ‘fail-safe’ id feature, the white rump!IMG_9485

This entry was posted in Birding.

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