Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Colour Purple

On the 30th of July I had a quick look on RBA and it came to my surprise that a Western Swamphen had appeared at RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk. I instantly thought it would be an escapee but when I heard that it didn't have a ring plus the fact that it was feeding and flying well I began to edge closer to the fact that it was the real deal. If it was it would be a 1st for the UK! I couldn't really go for it until the weekend after but thankfully some birders I know from York had a spare seat and invited me down with them very early on the Tuesday morning.

At 3am my alarm went off and soon enough I was already for my trip down to Suffolk. After a couple of stops on the way we finally reached Minsmere. News was that the Swamphen was still hanging around so we rushed over to the spot and amazingly it was showing upon arrival! We watched for a good 5mins before it wandered back into the reeds. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long for another view, this time it stayed out a little longer feeding along the back of the pond. Through the bins and scopes it looked incredible, the cracking purple plumage stood out really nicely. I have seen many of these abroad but to see one in the UK is pretty amazing. I am very pleased I got the chance to see this wonderful bird.

Western Swamphen
After a good hour and a half or so looking at the Swamphen we decided to go and have a look at the Dartford Warblers on Dunwich Heath, although we didn't get good views we saw about 3 of these very striking birds. We then headed back to Minsmere to hopefully see some Stone Curlew. We saw one of them very nicely through the scope. After we had a walk to many of the hides which surrounded Minsmere, the highlights from these were about 24 Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black Tailed Godwit and some Ruff.

Spotted Redshank
Unfortunately once we had finished our lunch and walking round this brilliant reserve it was time to start the long 4hr trek back to York. It is most definitely a time I will never forget!
On the 6th of August instead of going for the Swamphen as previously planned we decided to head down to RSPB Frampton for the White Rumped Sandpiper. We set of just after 10am but due to traffic it took nearly 3hrs instead of 2. After a long and frustrating journey we arrived at Frampton. We headed straight for the Frampton visitor centre to were their staff very kindly pointed us in the right direction for the 360 Hide. We headed straight for this hide because this was were the White Rumped Sand was showing. Once again upon arrival the bird was showing well out in the open at a decent range, some very kind people let us look through their scopes at this cracking little wader. It was only on show for about 5mins before flying behind an island and out of view. While it flew though you could see its very distinctive white rump. This was lifer 295 for me and now i'm only 5 away from the milestone of 300! After missing the one at Spurn last year I am also very pleased to have seen this and to have gotten nice views.

White Rumped Sandpiper
This was my first time at Frampton so I wanted to also have a good walk round to see what else was about. We started by walking up onto the sea wall where the view over the reserve was incredible. From here we saw a Little Ringed Plover and a very nice Wheatear by a pile of rocks.
Apart from a huge flock of Godwits we didn't see much else from the wall. On the road back to the car park we constantly checked through waders for something more unusual but all we could find was a Common Sandpiper and a Ruff. Suddenly all the waders started lifting so I instantly started scanning for a predator. My dad then picked out a raptor flying quite low, I quickly got my bins on it to see it was a Female Sparrow Hawk! The murmuration of waders was truly spectacular and definitely a highlight of the trip. On the way back we had another quick stop in the 360 Hide in hoping the Sparrow Hawk maybe brought the White Rumped Sand back out but despite quite a bit of scanning there was no sign. I did manage to pick out a Spotted Redshank which was a welcome surprise. Many of the waders were now really close to the hide which gave great photo opportunities.
Spotted Redshank

Black Tailed Godwit

After a while of photographing the mass of waders we headed back home. Thankfully this time the traffic was fine and we made it in just under 2hrs. Its been a fantastic week with many highlights I will never ever forget.

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