The Birds of Darbyshire.

Before you ask – yes, this pale blob is the best picture I could get of Stuart Darbyshire’s White Rumped Sandpiper at Banks Marsh today. It was MILES away!!!
But given the great man had achieved the not inconsiderable feat of finding three Yankees on the Ribble estuary over the last few days (the sandpiper, American Golden Plover and American Wigeon), the least I could do was go out and have a look for them once I got a free day.
Truly excellent work Stuart.
It was a glorious morning – Crossens Outer Marsh was stacked to the gunnels with waders over the high tide – Golden and Grey Plovers, Lapwings, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank – while three Marsh Harriers quartered the estuary further out and Whooper Swans winged in, calling in the crisp, cool air.
Mark Nightingale and Pete Kinsella were already scanning the spectacle as I arrived.
Nine Cattle Egrets flapped off towards Banks, and I followed them.
I paused to admire two Greenland Whitefronts in with Whoopers on the track down to Old Hollow, before ‘scoping the marsh for the next few hours.

The whitefronts dropped onto the marsh for a bathe before heading back out onto the fields with the swans, and Peregrine and Merlin were keeping everyone on their toes.
Up to 30 Fieldfares were around the farm, and 19-20 Twite wheezed in to perch on the fenceline.

The sandpiper kept a low profile for an hour or two before finally popping up in the company of a Dunlin almost at the back of the splashes.
The bird was so far away I used Blackpool Tower as a marker to get folk onto it.
Serious peep pain.
It seemed a bit smaller than the Dunlin, but would have been impossible without good light and the ‘scope on full zoom.
Mercifully the bird flicked across a channel twice while feeding, showing off its white arse, and while I strained my eyes to follow it, occasionally I could just make out its shorter bill, and more attentuated appearance.
Just.
A shame it didn’t come closer – it has behaved better at other times apparently.
A flock of 12 seedy-looking Egyptian Geese here were a surreal surprise – how long have they been around???

They kept their distance, loafing about near a herd of Canadas for most of the session.
Shady, but it’s the first time I can remember seeing this species on the estuary.
Two Great White Egrets, five Goosander and two more Marsh Harriers added to this most agreeable scene.
The birds are often distant at Banks, but there is always plenty to see…