It is a nice compact reserve, reed-beds in the middle with lots of nice marshy edges for waders. There were quite a few other birders wandering around early-doors trying to find the stars of the show. A vey brief and distant view of the stilt sandpiper helped the mood then the word went out that the least sandpiper was showing from the "viewing shelter", an open hide on the north edge of the reserve.
It you get it end-on it also has a vey tin-profile, not fat and rounded like many waders.
This video hopefully will give you a better ode of the total jizz of the bird.
Two good ticks therefore, one a lifer and it was only 9.30 in the morning.
Next stop was Portland. I hoped to see a third rare Yank wader - buff-bellied sandpiper - but it had done a disappearing trick, so I tried the quarry at the bill for a wryneck.
These are small woodpeckers, classic Autumnal migrants, and this has been a good year for them. They are notoriously skulky birds though, so I thought it might be a long wait (Martin had dipped on Sunday despite spending an hour or more looking for it!). Fortunately I totally jammed in on it. Three blokes were on the edge of the quarry and pointed me straight onto it, sitting on a rock at the back of the quarry.
It is there honest, can you see it?? I said they were skulky!!! It then disappeared for 15 minutes or so before flying across the quarry and feeding in some long grass.
As I said, they are a nightmare to see, and it is in the photo above, feeding on ants and insects in the grass.
On the times it did show you could see why they are so hard to see - their plumage is really cryptic and gives great camouflage. They are incredibly smart birds. It never showed any better and went into deeper cover so I left it and headed back home via lunch at my mother-in-laws. One last stop though was Staines reservoir again, which continues with its purple patch of rare waders. This time a grey phalarope on the North basin.
Like the red-necked phalarope earlier this year this is a wader that doesn't wade - it feeds on the surface of the water, as this one was doing. There are 3 phalaropes which visit this country - Wilsons, which is rare and has a really long, thin beak, red-necked and grey. The latter two are hard to tell apart out of breeding plumage and you have to look for subtle differences such as bill thickness.
By the time I'd finished that was 4 new year ticks. That takes me to 256 which is now my highest year total so with over 3 months to go I should be able to get a really solid total. Bring it on!!