Spotted Redshank, Chew Valley

The Bristol Writers Group was meeting in Sidcot on Wednesday so I grabbed a rare opportunity to bird. I’ve been so busy with the Honeyeaters and trying to score a crust that the year list is suffering. As is the Somerset list but not when I finally tracked this uncommon Tringa sandpiper down at Heron’s Green.

It was a challenge. The afternoon had been heavy showers and the skies darkened again as I drove along the A368. Right on cue, a massive cloud unloaded when I got to the viewing layby and through rain-distorted car windows binoculars could only reveal little egrets. Easy enough. Green sandpipers, at a pinch.

The shower had to diminish before I could get the scope out to find just one snipe. The weather wasn’t letting me off and another downpour ran along. I was prepared to admit defeat before the sun came to my rescue. Then I could scan both sides of the road and finally in about the last and least likely patch of mud, the spotshank hove into view. I love it when that happens. This wader’s spangled back was the most obvious field mark but with a longer look the bird’s elegance also stood out.

Time was pressing though. In that brief interval I trained my scope on the middle of the lake and picked out, first, common terns (presumably), then much smaller and darker black terns. Not the sort of identification you’d make without familiarity but they are so distinctive even at that distance.

Net result: year list up by two; Somerset now stands at 162; Avon 156. A good haul for thirty minutes.

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