Friday, 25 September 2015

That gets the set.....

One of the classic migratory bird families in the UK are the phalaropes. These small waders occur mainly around the coast in Spring and Autumn. There are 3 we get in the UK - red-necked, which I got a Broom in the Spring, grey, which I got last Friday at Sidlesham, and Wilson's. This is the rarest of the 3 and I've only seen one before. So, when one popped up in Essex and seemed to be settled I worked out how I could get there. The only chance was a very early start so I could get back home by 9.30 for a work webcast.
Fortunately the M25 is pretty empty at 6.15 and I whizzed around. The bird was reported as being at Vange Marsh, which is  a small RSPB reserve near-ish to Rainham. The instructions took me to a housing estate which didn't seem right. I parked up though and followed the instructions to "go under the A13". That was a track over some rough-ground - worried about my camera gear, not a bit!! "go over the railway" - well that felt a bit better, at least there was some open-ground. "turn left to view". Finally I could see some water, a low marshy area with lots of birds on it.
I set up my 'scope and almost immediately got onto a small bird feeding vigorously on the water, which is classic phalarope behaviour! It was a long way off though, and you were kept back from the water by a large stream.

This above is a 500mm with a 2x converter on it!!

For the next 30 minutes or so I watched it as it move around feeding.

So what makes this a Wilson's as opposed to any other phalarope, especially in non-breeding plumage. Well, the main thing in that beak. The other two have much shorter, stouter, dagger-like beaks. The Wilson's has a much more rapier-like bill. The overall body shape is different as well, with a much longer neck giving a very different profile. It is also a bit larger, but without comparisons that's hard to tell.

It wasn't the only wader present. It was often in close company with a pair of green sandpipers which did give a good size comparison.

So, I managed to get the bird, and with the M25 clear I was back home in time for my webcast. It's got to be a good year when you can get all 3 phalaropes!!