Saturday, May 15, 2010

Waders... a bit of an obsession

Waders are always tricky to get on The Patch... well, a good selection of waders are because there's no wader scrapes. Nothing along the lines of say Sandbach, Frodsham or Neumann's. The closest we have is probably Pumphouse Pool  which has in the past pulled in the odd passage Dunlin (always a good sign) although not for a few years now and Millbrook Pool (recently renamed 'the lagoon') which has a wet flush in the north-east corner. Overwintering Green Sandpiper has become a regular here in recent years and is often one of the the first waders on the year list. You can add another five species from Halfway House in January easily enough - Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew and there's no problem flushing Common Snipe from the wet fields on Upper Moss Side (UMS) - there are dozens of them. Jack Snipe on the other hand are tricky little buggers. I've had just one on the Snipe Fields, but thankfully there are usually 2-3 that overwinter in the wet areas east of Norton Marsh. I'll say no more than that ;)

Woodcock can be another tricky patch bird. They don't rode here, so the only real chance of picking them up is during the winter when the Continental birds come over. Walking the margins of the Snipe Fields in February or March usually puts up one or two from the ditches where they feed. It's also possible during the winter months to pick up an overwintering Common Sandpiper on the ship canal, but these are not reported annualy. Mind you, it's a long stretch of water and not closely watched so who knows... Not to worry anyway, because these are one of the few spring passage waders you can be pretty sure of getting somewhere. They turn up on the eastern pools (Birchwood, Pumphouse, Millbrook) in April and May annually and less commonly on autumn passage into September.

Little Ringed Plover is another reasonably likely annual spring migrant. One or two usually drop in around April time, but rarely stay for more than a few days. Pumphouse is probably the most likely place to catch up with one, but the shingly margins around Birchwood are worth a look too.  Now those one, two, three... eleven species are pretty much all you're likely to get on this patch without working the river from Halfway House. Even then, I reckon Jack Snipe, Woodcock and LRP are pretty good patch birds and I always get a buzz out of finding one. Then it gets trickier... nothing wader wise on the patch is predictable and so detecting any kind of wader passage is quite a thrill. But, being a patch, this can be somewhat 'patchy'... pun intended. Take, for example, last year....

Nothing much happened in April, apart from a couple of passage Green and Common Sandpipers and then, during a few days in early May, things picked up. It began with a Little Ringed Plover at Pumphouse Pool on May 3rd and then got interesting over the next two weeks on the river... spring passage had begun.

6th May saw the first report of Dunlin on the river - 3 birds. This was followed next day by one of Halfway House's little 'purple patches' - 18 Dunlin, 1 Whimbrel and 1 Wood Sandpiper. I got these all in the space of about an hour from about 7.00am onwards. Funny, most stuff seems to be early at HWH...

A report of Ringed Plover followed on May 9th, followed by 2 Avocet and a partial summer plumaged Knot on May 13th, 5 more Dunlin and a Ringed Plover on May 15th and another Whimbrel on May 16th. In other words, a little flurry of passage-ness on the patch - good times. Inspired by this I decided this year to stake out HWH whenever I could - I wanted to see just how much passage wader activity there was on the river. Let's just say, it has so far been well worth the effort!!!

April 20th - 11 Black-tailed Godwit, I Curlew, I Common Snipe, 2 Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 1 Oysteratcher

April 21st - 4 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Lapwing

April 22nd - 2 Avocet, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher, 4 Lapwing, 1 Curlew

April 25th - 4 Dunlin*, 1 Ringed Plover

April 26th - 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 3 Dunlin*, 6 Lapwing, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel

April 27th - 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel

May 13th - 1 Ringed Plover

Pretty cool... *even if I didn't get the Dunlin... and then things went quiet. It's now May 15th. When, I wonder, will I get Knot or Sanderling???


May 20th  - 1 Knot - woot! Have hopes of Sanderling during the next week...

May 21st - 2 Dunlin, 1 Sanderling  (see Misty May Morning...)

May 25th - 3 Ringed Plover reported from HWH.

So what next I wonder? Well, Golden Plover for sure come winter time (missed these in Jan-Feb by starting the year late) but Grey Plover must be a possibility then too and maybe Little Stint... Have a feeling spring passage has given up its goodies for the year wader wise, but you never know... and Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff could well turn up on autumn passage? Then there's Wood Sandpiper I guess... To be honest, I'd be happy just to detect autumn passage on the river given the buzz I've gotten from the spring birds :-) Good times!

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