Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday 20th December

This week the tides are still not much good for photography - 2.1 and 2.2m all week, but, ever the optimist, I went to see what I could see today. I was also keen to see how the Malaysian Plovers' moult was progressing.

As expected, it was difficult to get close to the birds, but I was able to take some distant shots and do a count. On the construction site, new blue-painted pegs have appeared everywhere - no doubt the forerunners of house foundations. For today anyway, some Barn Swallows were making use of them as flycatching lookout posts, and they were quite approachable as long as I stayed in the car.

There were one or two stunning pinkish-purple flowers growing out of the sand. Their colours were so vivid I just had to take a photo! If anyone knows the name of this plant, please put it in a comment below this entry!

I got a few flight shots of the waders as they were moving around to nab the best spots to feed.

A flock of Red-necked Stints with a lone Broad-billed Sandpiper in there somewhere. See if you can spot it!

It was nice to find a fairly obvious Little Stint (as Little Stints go!) among the Red-neckeds, but frustrating not to be able to get very close. The most marked feature was the long legs - both the tarsus and tibia seemed longer than Red-neckeds. The bill tapered to quite a fine point and was slightly but noticeably decurved, and the bird showed the distinctive 'round-shouldered' shape and turned up rear end I have noted on other Little Stints. The upperparts were nice and dark (though not as dark as these pictures suggest!) , and the bird had a good breast band. Structurally the bird looked very similar to one seen and photographed earlier in the autumn (see here) and could conceivably be the same bird.

In my attempts to get closer to the waders on the high tide mark I managed to step into a sink-hole in the mud and went in straight up to above my knees! Thankfully the surrounding sand was firm and I was able to pull myself out with the help of my tripod. Amazingly camera, scope and bins survived unharmed! My trousers and shoes weren't so lucky!

The lengths - or should I say the depths - to which I will go to get my photos!

There were a few more birds today - both in number and variety - than of late. Here's the count:

Pacific Golden Plover 8
Little Ringed Plover 3
Lesser Sand Plover 1
Kentish Plover 19
Malaysian Plover 11
Red-necked Stint 210
Little Stint 1
Broad-billed Sandpiper 2
Curlew Sandpiper 2
Common Redshank 500
Common Greenshank 30
Marsh Sandpiper 10
Whimbrel 1

Total 798

On my way from the site, I came across this confiding 1st winter Brown Shrike. Usually I find Brown Shrikes very shy and unapproachable (Tiger Shrikes, by contrast, are usually quite tame), but this one seemed engrossed in catching prey and wasn't too bothered by my presence (in the car).

It was amazingly successful at catching various bugs, and had a very high strike rate - probably about 80%.

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