Saturday, 3 December 2011

Purple Sandpipers

Drawing back the curtains this morning reveales a hint of frost on the lawn. There may be rain later, so I hurry over breakfast to give myself ample time for my promised visit to Sedger’s Bank and Purple Sandpipers. Low water exposes an extensive flat, rocky pavement at the western end of Port Eynon Bay and I need to get to the water’s edge to find them. On the way out, the sandy beach is always interesting; I pass a couple of Grey Plovers, a small flock of Ring Plovers, Sanderlings, Oystercatchers, a Grey Heron, Little Egrets and many gulls, but it’s the Turnstones I’m looking for; that’s where the Purple Sandpipers will be.

It’s wild here; the sound of Curlews, Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls mixes with the wind and crashing waves; there are no human influences. I realise again how fortunate I am to live in this place. There’s solitude too and as rain-bearing clouds begin to move in from the west, I hope that the ever-changing weather will hold long enough. Offshore, Shags dive through the surf and Cormorants slip from the surface, perhaps in search of the same fish. Wintering flocks of Great-crested Grebes are here throughout the winter and I find at least ten riding out the waves.

Turnstones are less confiding than Purple Sandpipers and once a flock is put up it’s easy to separate the two. In flight Purple Sandpipers lack gaudy white wing patterns and are easy to pick out, but against the rocks they can be overlooked. They usually hang out at the very edge of the sea and so getting to them needs effort. I count more than twenty, but there are likely to be more and as usual some of them are very tame indeed.

Turning for home as the sun tries to break through the watery clouds, I catch sight of a diver offshore. It’s too far out to identify precisely; Great Northern, Red-throated, or Black-throated, it doesn’t really matter and knowing would make little difference to the enjoyment of my morning.

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