I felt the urge to twitch birds creeping back into my psyche with several lifers knocking about at different ends of the country. So I successfully managed to extract myself from work for some twitching time today though I was torn as to which way to go. One option was to head north in the hope that yesterday's glum face symbol next to the words Greater Yellowlegs on Birdguides was more down to no one looking anymore rather than it being gone. But the bitter taste of dipping that Isabelline Wheatear a couple of weeks ago was still a bit too fresh for my liking, and a long solo drive for nothing was not appealing. Another option was to head for Kent and hope for the best with the Blackpoll Warbler. Hmmm - maybe not. The safest bet seemed to be to head south for the juv Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - a bird that I've wanted to see for years (no rational reason why, other than they were much rarer when I first started twitching so maybe a relict sense of it being a proper mega).
So, with my mind made up I went for it. Bear in mind I am happily pagerless and don't have a smart phone - it was either going to be there or not but I wouldn't know until I pulled up. The trip down was largely uneventful apart from a snarl up on the M5 whilst some poor bugger was extracted from their car by the services. Once past that I shamefully made use of the in-built TwatNav in the car to negotiate the A and B roads between the M5 and Chew Valley Lake. As Herriot's Bridge came into sight, I could see cars and people - hurrah!
The twitching opposite of dipping is walking directly from car to bird with no effort. Today was almost that as the bird has been showing from the roadside, but at the moment I arrived it wasn't. No matter, whilst I waited for the small wader flock to come back into view I scanned to the other side and immediately picked up the two Long-billed Dowitchers that have been knocking about for a while - excellent. A small Dunlin flock appeared into view, and back out again before I could check through properly. A few more minutes and there it was, superb scopeful TVs of the Sharp-tailed Sand as it preened and milled about. It was initially in amongst the Dunlin and Lapwings and only partially on view but was soon out in the open. I had a big inane grin on my face. It disappeared again with the Dunlin, but again came back and this time the whole flock had a really good fly around. It was amazingly easy to pick it up in flight amongst the Dunlins, looking slightly larger and darker as they wheeled about. It was at this moment that an unsavoury aspect of my twitching psyche surfaced as I found myself churlishly urging it to 'go on, feck off my son before anyone else who needs it gets here ....' The flock landed and I came to my senses. Walking back across the road I turned my attention to another bird. I looked along the edge of Herriot's Pool and picked up the Spotted Sandpiper as it pottered along. Brilliant, I'd been there no more than 20 minutes and I'd picked up all three great birds. I stayed for a while longer to watch the Sharpie, and after an hour or so I decided to head straight back to Leics with the intention of heading to Cossington Meadows.
Almost as soon as I got back to Leics. I got a local grapevine message that there was a small stint at Cossington with yellow legs, and alternatives to Temminck's had not been ruled out. I rang Dave Teaboy Gray to see what he knew and it transpired that he was both the finder and still on site. I headed straight there bumping into Andy Llama Mackay on the way in. We frogmarched down to Tern Pool but no sign of anything small and stintish. We later tied up with Dave and Allen Pocock but the bird was gone after being flushed by a Sprawk. Sounds like it was almost certainly a Temminck's (unusual in itself at an inland site in late November) but perhaps we'll never know for sure. After a bit of a natter and catching up we spend the rest of the light watching at least two Short-eared Owls putting in a great performance.
All in all a day of high returns for minimal effort - I could really get back into this birding and twitching malarky. Just a shame there were no decent photographic opportunities!
ps - the Greater Yellowlegs has had 3!!! all day and no glum faces, wonder if it will stay until Saturday .....