Friday, 19 July 2013

The Rutland Plover

I had been thinking that at this time of year there wouldn't be much to see on the bird front. Instead there has been a surprising number of good birds in June and July though as usual most of them have been too far away to tempt me. However when a Pacific Golden Plover turned up at Rutland Water in Leicestershire it certainly piqued my interest. After all it was certainly within my self-imposed two hour limit (more a guideline these days actually) and as inland occurrences of this species are very unusual it got my attention. It was found on Monday where it spent most of the day in view but disappeared on Tuesday until the evening when it turned up again. After a full day's showing on Wednesday I felt that it was now nicely "bedded down" and ripe for a visit. Accordingly on Thursday morning after dropping off my eldest daughter at the coach station and attending my son's school assembly I was finally free to set off just before 11am. I managed successfully to navigate myself there without the aid of the Sat Nav and so it was that at a little before 1pm I pulled up at the Rutland Water car park. I paid the (rather steep) £5.50 fee for a permit and headed off in the searing heat on the twenty minute walk to Heron hide where the bird had taken up residence. It had last been reported on RBA as still present just as I had arrived so I was pretty confident that I was going to score. In the heat and carrying all my clobber I couldn't walk too quickly but at a steady pace I eventually arrived at the hide.

This was located in a wooded section so mercifully was nice and cool. There weren't actually that many people there - I'd passed quite a few coming the other way who'd already paid homage to the bird so there was plenty of space and I soon found a seat. The bird was located about 150 yards away sitting with some lapwings on the stone bund that had been constructed to form a shallow lagoon from the bay. I immediately got to work trying to photograph and video it though the heat haze was clearly going to be the main issue. After less than ten minutes the bird suddenly flew up though fortunately it didn't go very far and had only moved to the far shoreline opposite the hide to feed. There is stayed for the rest of the time that I was there, again a good 150 yards away, into the sun and often partially hidden in grass. The views were perfectly acceptable and you could see all salient features but from a photographic point of view it was always going to be rather difficult. The most striking thing about the bird was how "leggy" it was. If this was a woman you'd talk about legs that went on for ever - in some senses it looked more like a proper wader rather than a plover. It had much coarser back spangling than our Golden Plovers, a white border to the black breast that went all down the side and unlike an American GP not much primary projection. But just on it's legginess you couldn't mistake it for anything else - very striking!

The bird on the stone bund...

...and on the far shore - just look at those legs! 

I can't tell you how pleased I am with these shots which just shows how tough photographic conditions were. There was a lot of post-processing involved to get even these two shots.

This is the best I could manage on the video front, not very good I'm afraid

I passed the next hour and a half taking periodic snaps and video, more in hope than expectation and munching on my lunch that I'd bought en route. In between shots I would survey the general area. In the distance I could see the Osprey nest and indeed there were a couple of fledged Ospreys hanging out on some bare branches nearby waiting to be fed. A parent bird would occasionally fly past on a hunting trip. A Common Sandpiper flew by, calling, and landed on the shore a bit further up. There were lots of Starlings and Lapwings working their way along the near shore. All in all a very peaceful scene.

The view from the Heron hide

An obliging Lapwing

Eventually it was time to leave so I wandered back along the heat-seared path to the sanctuary of the air-conditioned Gnome mobile. Then it was back on the road heading for home. At Northampton where one normally does a one-junction hop along the M1, traffic was backing all the way up to the slip road. Having been caught out by this in the past I made a detour and went on the A508 towards Milton Keynes before nipping through Blisworth village to get back to the A43 - a very nice little detour which I shall certainly remember in future should I find myself in a similar situation. I arrived back at Chateau Gnome for a reviving cup of tea at around 5pm, very pleased with my visit.

Here's the best photo of the bird that I could find on the internet, taken by Richard Bayldon © and displayed on the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society web-site from which I pulled this copy (there are some other excellent photos of it on that site). I can only assume that that bird was briefly on the near shore when this was taken. You can see all the salient features: the coarse back spangling, the legginess and the white breast border that goes all the way down (on AGP it stops at the shoulder). A stunning bird!

As I write this the following morning the bird is being reported as "no sign" so I'd seen it just in time which was fortunate. Also it means that it can now relocate to somewhere like Otmoor. Now wouldn't that be something!

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