Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bicester Wetlands: a tale of three sandpipers

An early morning trip down to the BOS Bicester Wetland nature reserve was good value, having the place to myself for an hour or so.  There have been good numbers of green sandpipers here for a few weeks now, and as soon as I arrived there they were, feeding along the receding muddy edge of the main pool.  Almost immediately I realised one of the sandpipers was markedly different, and quickly identified a wood sandpiper.  Then it took off, calling, and headed towards the back of the pool. It did not reappear for a while so I climbed up into the hide and focused instead on the green sandpipers, scanning through the scattered small groups and eventually counted eleven on one sweep of the telescope.
wood sandpiper
The wood sandpiper did not reappear so I walked down the grassy path between the pools and the railway line, to an outlying pool, where the cattle were gathered.  The same or just possibly another wood sandpiper flew up from the pool, then a couple more green sandpipers.  A little frustrated by the flighty "wood" I returned to the hide, by which time a common sandpiper and three snipe were out on the mud.  Eventually the wood sandpiper reappeared too.  
juvenile green sandpiper
green sandpipers - adult to the left, juvenile to the right
I then spend a bit of time watching the green sandpipers, and it was quite clear that the adults, with their worn and generally un-spotted feathers, could be distinguished from the neatly spotted plumage of the juveniles.  From the sample I saw well enough to age, I identified five juveniles and two adults.  It certainly seems that both wood and green sandpipers have had a very good breeding season in Scandinavia.

Returning home I was able to spend some time observing a very large flock of gulls gathered on an extensive stubble field that was in the process of being ploughed.  The same event last year attracted a similar crowd.  The main species were lesser black-backed and black headed gulls - about five hundred of each.  Tucked in amongst them I was able to pick out a couple of adult common gulls, two adult yellow-legged gulls and, in the afternoon, a splendid adult Mediterranean gull (pretty rare away from the reservoirs).  
adult Mediterranean gull
spot the Mediterranean gull
To cap a rewarding local patch day, a flock of six golden plover flew over the house at about 7pm.  This is really quite early for "goldies", early September would be more normal for our first returning birds.

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