Marsh Sandpiper, Frampton

My 298th UK species but not a lifer thanks to birds at Cairns and Albany in Australia. Does this imply that marsh sandpiper is some sort of mega? Certainly there was a consistent posse of watchers for this corner of Gloucestershire, from various points of the country. My Collins notes that the bird breeds in southern Russia and winters in Africa, so this one was not too far off course.

Morcombe, who describes it as a small greenshank, has it as regular down under. This makes its wintering range broad and vagrants must be expected. Luckily for the assembled at Frampton, several greenshanks were available for comparison. Luckily for me especially, those too went on the year list. How have I missed them thus far?

Not quite so puzzling is missing yellow wagtails: I have a huge ten-year gap in records, largely due to being in California and Scotland. They have become more regular of late but today six of them – yes, six – appearing as a backdrop to the wader action, were my first for 2014.

So the year list gained three to put the total at 191. That means I need to fill a few gaps since I last reported.

My projected summer of passerines at Chew Valley Lake didn’t materialise but early August brought oystercatcher on to that list, which then stood at 132. Year bird 186 the same evening was a pair of stunning male ruddy ducks swimming in front of the Moreton Hide.

I wonder how many more year lists the species will grace. This murderous civilisation’s only response to a problem being death, it has been eradicating the duck from our shores. There is hope: the gathering collapse may render such side shows uneconomic, especially compared with the rising demands of the NHS, unemployable citizenry, various wars and simply maintaining the vast infrastructure we’re saddled with. Maintaining and replacing, as that infrastructure comes under attack from a climate prone to growing violence.

I digress: late August added arctic tern to my Chew list as a really rather obvious juvenile danced above the lake. Compared with attendant common terns, it looked almost snub-nosed and, as a hide companion noted, redolent (my word, not his actually) of Sabine’s gull. Two days later the same place provided cracking views of black terns to bring 2014 up to 188 species.

I’ve missed year bird 187. That was a juvenile black-necked grebe at Barrow Gurney, which stayed less than 24 hours. Good thing I went for it.

And now here we are heading into September and lots of autumn goodies to take me past the 200 mark. And my UK list to 300. Which will be my 299th? Ah, but I know this already.

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