15th May. Mental Wader Day

It would be fair to say that for every good day on a patch you'll get 20 bad ones. So by my reckoning that's about 1.5 good days per month, though to be honest that's probably pushing it. Today wasn't a bad day or a good day, today was an amazing day, actually it was an amazing 3 hours and days like that don't come very often.

As I disembarked the bus the light rain had turned heavy. Within just a few minutes of being onsite the good birds started to come, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, feeding on the island, were immediately followed by the first of 2 Greenshank.  

The weather by now couldn't have been better: heavy low cloud, rain and that all important northeast wind - the perfect storm. I made my way to the larger lake just as an Arctic Tern bounced by and the first of ten Sanderling dropped down briefly. 

I scanned the distant edge and instantly picked up a Turnstone among a good sized flock of smaller waders, mostly Ringed Plover and at least 4 Sanderling. I waited for a dog walker to pass them, suspecting they might fly nearer. Ironically they didn't flush. 

When I eventually got to the flock there was a total of 6 Sanderling, 16 Ringed Plover, Dunlin and the aforementioned Turnstone. Quite a tidy flock and the largest gathering of Sanderling I'd ever seen inland. 

Heading back towards the causeway between the two lakes a Wood Sandpiper had joined the resident Redshanks feeding close enough for a few record shots.  The birds just kept coming and scanning the sky I picked up another Turnstone dropping in with a Dunlin, a second Greenshank, 4 more Sanderling in 2 pairs and a seemingly constant stream of Dunlin heading north. This was movement more akin to the East Coast not a former colliery site 50+ miles inland and it wasn't over.  

I set off back round towards the drain mouth where the small waders were gathering, presumably taking advantage of the food being flushed down with the surface water run-off. As I crossed the drain most of the flock got up and settled on the short grass of the 'plains' as I scanned through them I picked up yet another flock, overhead, of about 20 waders some clearly bigger than the others. Checking through them I picked out 5 partial summer-plumaged Knot, the rest of the birds being Dunlin I dare say I might have missed other similarly short staying birds. Dunlin continued to go through and I estimated at least 30 birds between 06:30 and 09:00, but on reflection I think this might have been double.  Shortly after 08:30 the weather broke and with it the migrant stream.  Another regular birder arrived and I regaled him with tales of my haul. He looked a bit despondent but I suggested that with another front coming through there was bound to be something else. Sadly I had a meeting arranged at work and had to leave, but my tip paid off as he had 2 Little Terns and another 7 Turnstones drop in an hour after I'd left. 

As I write this I'm still struck by the sheer amount of waders (13 species in total) that were moving just 36 hours previously. Anyone reading this or trawling through the list of species on the Sheffield Bird Study Group site might be thinking that they might start concentrating their efforts at Orgreave, but days like this don't come often, in fact this was a once in a my 30 years of birding life (from an inland perspective) and this morning it was business as usual with just 6 Ringed Plovers. 

Putting it all into context this was the equivalent of those famous East Coast falls that as a young birder I used to dream about and for me the memory of 15th May 2013, or Mental Wader Day as I referred to it in my notebook, will stay with me forever.

Curiously the events of yesterday morning were not mirrored at nearby sites such as Old Moor, Potteric etc Though good numbers of Sanderling and Turnstone were reported from several Midlands sites.

1 comment:

northernloon said...

Freaking awesome. And there was me thinking I'd scored on FootIt with a Dipper on the Aire.

Top marks and just rewards.