Thursday, 8 November 2012

Purp Alert....

On the flats at Thurstaston my harbingers of autumn, the Pintails, have been assembling. With extra light in the morning after the falling back of the clocks I have had several chances to catch up with them, but they are not the subject of this post. No, for the last few days I have been waiting for Purple Sandpipers to appear on Hilbre thus, for me anyway, completeing the transition to the chilly season.

I found myself on my favourite tidal island today, transporting my dad there so he could do a spot of filming of the waders feeding on the rocky shore.


The usual suspects were present. Oystercatchers argued over plump, fleshy mussels, Redshanks patrolled the whole island and Turnstones mooched the shag-pile seaweed covering the old lifeboat station slipway. Looking over the shore I thought I saw a Pruple Sandpiper, a Purp, scurry between two lumps of sandstone. I go into stealth mode and creep over the rocks. I say rocks, they are more barnacle and old mussel shells than sandstone.

I'm obviously not as stealthy as I think I am. An observant Redshank spots me, fixes me with a hard stare...


Calls a shrill warning to the other birds on the reefs...


before departing to the south west...


Looking around to see if the rest of the birds follow the angry Redshank's lead, I am relieved to see that the Turnstones have stayed cool and hung around. I am not too close, I'm mindful that I should not disturb these birds, and they seem quite happy to carry on feeding as I shuffle about on the periphery of the shore. I see a grey flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. This time I get a good look - yes! A Purp! Still a ways off but I grab a record of my first sighting of a Purple Sand for winter 2012/13.


It is incredibly well camouflaged amongst the greys of the barnacles and old mussels. I decide to lie down on the rocks and see if the bird will come closer. Purps can be very confiding and with luck it will wander in range of my 100-400 zoom lens. Plus I can see if there are any more with this individual. Sure enough after a while I locate 2 more birds. They come together on the edge of the waves...


Sure enough my patience and decision to go motionless are rewarded with great views of one of my favourite waders. They stay close together and seem to be keeping an eye out for each other.


For a while I just watch them. I find their presence reassuring. They are back in their regular haunt at the expected time, a signal that all is well with the world. I like their busy-ness, strangely I find it calming, my state of relaxation inversely proportional to theirs.

I watch as they stride across the barnacle colony, the waves thumping away at the shore in the background. They complete the scene, they are again a part of the Hilbre landscape.


I have total respect for these birds...

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