It has been there for a long time, and I have watched the reports and seen the photographs, but something in told me it was twitching, something I have not done for years. However with the opportunity this Saturday, and Ian also up for the trip, we decided to go the 40 miles to see the American visitor that was calling Lepe Country Park home for the winter.
We walked along the beach with the tide lapping against the breakers. After walking around the grass area we came to a series of pools, and away over the far side were two Oystercatchers, a single Redshank, and the Lesser Yellowlegs. But you couldn't see the legs, the eye stripe and white breast was visible, indicating it was definitely something different to the Redshank.
As we watched it it became restless, then flew off across the water and then to settle closer to us. It began to feed along the edge of the water, and at last you could see the yellow legs.
Its behaviour was very similar to that of a Redshank or even Greenshank, and it was very active as it moved along the edge of the vegetation probing all the time. It made its way even closer to us giving very good views.
The sun came out and lit up the pool providing the chance to see the bird at its best. The legs are a bright yellow and long in proportion to the bird. The shape and jizz resembles a Redshank, but it is slightly smaller. The bill is straight and very fine, and dark in colour, The supercilium is short, but distinctive, and does not go beyond the eye. The upper parts are brown with fine spots, while the primaries and secondaries are darker than the n the back. I can see how it could be confused with a Wood Sandpiper, but when you see the legs you realise that it is definitely something special.
Finally it flew back to the small island and joined the Redshank, it seemed to have found a frioend as it came close to the similar bird. It then flew off out of sight, just as a party turned up wanting to see it.
We walked along the beach, but finally decided to head off towards Inchmery Point. In the lagoons behind the road, a large flock of Curlew were at roost, but took off as we walked by. We stopped to scan the lagoon, and this nearly cost me my telescope for no return. We walked along the beach, then up onto the road. As we passed a line of conifers I heard a Goldcrest call. I stopped to show how they react to the call of Firecrest only to have Ian point out a superb male Firecrest in the hedge. It went through the whole display for us raising the crest. The Firecrest for me is the best small passerine they just look esquisite. Fortunately as well we were able to share the experience with some other birders.
We reached the point and were able to see after plenty of scanning distant views of a Great Northern Diver, and a male Long-tailed Duck. There was also a Slavonian Grebe closer in, but it was constantly diving. The duck came a little closer later and you were able to see better that it was a male.
Ian picked up a Peregrine flying across the water to settle on the distant spit, and after several large flocks of Lapwing went up away in the distance a Peregrine was picked up, again low over the water but clearly carrying a catch, probably a Lapwing. As it reached the spit another falcon flew in close to it. It looked smaller, and as we watched the first bird plucking its dinner, the other bird sat on drift wood watching.
We headed back to the cars, and as we stood having something to eat an Auk flew past into the Solent, and I managed to pick up a diver close in. At first I thought it was a Black-throated, but after getting closer, and consulting the field guide we were happy it was a Great Northern. At firs it was holding the head high, with a very white throat, but closer views showed the pronounced forehead and thick neck which for me was a Great Northern.
It moved past us quickly, diving every so often, not with an extravagant leap like the Cormorant that was close by, but just slipping under without any fuss. We watched it catch what was probably a crab or shellfish just before it moved away into the distance.
The weather had been kind to us, as it stayed dry. Dark clouds were all around us and the day was coming to an end so we decided to call it a day and head home