Monday 2 August 2021

Best Western

I only ever seem to visit RSPB Snettisham to twitch rare birds. I shouldn't need a rare bird as a reason to visit as its a very fine reserve. I've a good record there too - 100% sucessful. Broad-billed Sandpiper in 2015, Snowy Owl and Semipalmated Sandpiper in 2018 and now Western Sandpiper. I've yet to dip and have probably just cursed myself with those very words. 

Myself, Nick and John Geeson drove up to meet the incoming tide on the afternoon of Friday 23rd July, the day after it was found. On arrival I have to say, that despite many birders, I wasn't feeling too optimistic that it'd be re-found. There were thousands of Dunlin out on the mud and I mean thousands, constantly moving, jittery and very mobile. A lovely spectacle to watch as the flocks wheeled and turned in the air but how on earth was anyone going to dig a Western Sandpiper out of that lot. Well, turns out someone did and I enjoyed decent if not slightly distant views.

                                        Western Sandpiper - Snettisham, Norfolk - 23rd July 2021

There were better photos of course, these are just for the record. You can at least see the size difference between it and the adjacent Dunlin and Sanderling. Once the bird had been pinned down and seen well, it was just nice to carry on scanning through the flocks of waders, reminded me of birding back in Cork. Red Knot (many), Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and a breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper. Plus plenty of both adult and juvenile Common, Little and Sandwich Terns. I didn't see the Roseate Tern (or Terns) but no matter.

This was my first Western Sandpiper away from the Americas. I've seen ones in Panama in 2009, feeding out on the mud at Costa del Este in Panama City and a year later, a single bird on a small pool on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. I even managed a photo of that one - it was June so I guess it was a non-breeding bird first summer bird.

                                        Western Sandpiper, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador - June 2010

Of course, there's another reason to remember this most recent visit to Snettisham. Once the bird had been seen, it all got a bit social, lots of birders milling around chatting and catching up. Even by Norfolk standards, there was a "bit o' craic". As we left the throng and started our long trudge back to the car I turned around to wait for Nick and took this quick shot.


He won't mind me saying this I hope, but its good to see a smile on his face again, signing off on possibly his last Norfolk twitch before starting a new chapter down in Cornwall. If you've read his blog you'll possibly know he's had a recent health scare An unexpected journey. However, things are certainly looking brighter now and it was good to see him in high spirits once again.

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