We’ve just got back from an extended family visit, and since my family is quite widely dispersed around the UK, it gave me some good opportunities (weather permitting!) to explore some beautiful places around southern England and Wales.
It wasn’t quite blowing a gale, but the wind was strong enough to send the top layer of sand swirling across the sand in wraith-like ribbons a few inches above the surface. Keeping optics well covered, I leaned into the wind and headed for the shoreline in the hope of finding some roosting shorebirds.
I found them hunkered down among the stones, grabbing whatever shelter they could find. More often than not, I was in amongst them before I noticed them – they were incredibly well camouflaged – with the result that my first few shots were of flocks which I had flushed. They were a mixture of Dunlins and Common Ringed Plovers, with the odd Sanderling or two.
Once I got down to eye level with the birds they weren’t too bothered by my slow approach, and the combination of the subtle blue-greys of the rocks and the contrastingly bold lines of the plovers were a delight to the eye.
The fact that these plovers were obviously on migration, coupled with their neat, narrow breastband and relatively dark upperparts helped me to identify them as ‘Tundra Ringed Plovers’ – either the race ‘tundrae‘, which breeds in Northern Scandinavia across to far-eastern Siberia (so is the race which turns up as a rarity in Malaysia once in a while) or ‘psammodroma‘, which breeds in Greenland, Iceland and into north-east Canada.
A familiar face – a Sanderling still largely in non-breeding plumage ‘in amongst’.
I would have happily spend a week going down to the Estuary, but in the end, I was happy to have had one near-perfect afternoon!