Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A seasonal visitor from Lapland at the office Christmas social

It was our  office Christmas social today, and for a change we headed off to Hilbre Island in the Cheshire Dee. We certainly picked our day, it was glorious in comparison to recent weeks, relatively mild with light south easterly winds and even some relative brightness which in the afternoon almost culminated into that rarest of weather phenomenons known as sunshine.

Hilbre Island has always held a special place in my heart, it's a very beautiful place, with wide open views, and there's a real feeling of remoteness out here. There were lots of waders in evidence today, thousands of oystercatchers (including a leucistic bird) roosting on Middle Eye, as well as curlews, turnstones, ringed plover, redshanks, knot and a single grey plover. Every now and then a peregrine dashed through the flocks, scattering them in all directions. Also roosting on Middle Eye over the tide, at least 100 pale-bellied brent geese with a single dark-bellied bird.

At the north end there were plenty of common scoter flying back and forth, and then one of our group spotted a cracking adult drake long-tailed duck, complete with long tail, flying low over the sea. One of the best long-tailed ducks I've seen in a long time. A single rock pipit was hanging around the north end, and a second bird was at the south end. Eight purple sandpipers were roosting over the tide with turnstones at the north end.

But for me at least, the best was yet to come on the walk back to West Kirby. I was hoping to get a photo of the leucistic oystercatcher which we'd only seen distantly on Middle Eye from the observatory, and this meant I was constantly stopping and scanning the oystercatcher flocks and so I'd fallen well behind the rest of the group. I was a good 100m behind when I got to Little Eye and almost immediately spotted a bunting feeding on the sand. For a brief millisecond I thought snow bunting, but immediately realised that it was actually a Lapland bunting. The light was beginning to go, but I was able to fire off a few half decent photographs to show to the others when I caught them up! It was the perfect end to a highly enjoyable day.

Year: 266 (Lapland bunting)

Lapland bunting on Little Eye

Purple sandpipers. I don't know much about the plumage variations of purple sandpipers but I'll have a guess and say that these are adults.....

Whereas this I would assume is a 1st winter because of the white edged (median?) coverts.

Ringed plover and turnstones.

Rock pipit

The team!

Below are a few more Lapland bunting photos.

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