Trip reports

Wednesday Walk: Sovereign Harbour

Adult female blackbird on garden lawn

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

On an unexpectedly mild and sunny Wednesday, 13 group members set off around Sovereign Harbour and the adjacent coastal strip. Car parks can sometimes be productive bird watching sites, but on this occasion sightings were confined to house sparrow, starling, blackbird (pictured), blue tit, chaffinch, feral pigeon, wood pigeon and carrion crow. The sparrows were very busy collecting pampas grass for nesting material, perhaps under the misapprehension that spring had arrived. In addition a nearby housing block was festooned with cormorants, and there were numerous herring gulls and black headed gulls, with some of the latter already changing to their summer plumage.

Moving to the sea shore and vegetated shingle, we also saw pied wagtail, robin and great crested grebe. The tide was out and the outer harbour contained more grebes and a solitary redshank, while a group of turnstones rested on the shingle ridge. Then a small pale wader with a down-curved black beak was found on the mud at the harbour mouth. The beak appeared too long for dunlin, and we eventually settled on a juvenile curlew sandpiper on the basis of elimination of confusion species. But curlew sandpipers are not normally around during the winter, so it remains something of a mystery.

We were behind schedule and half the group returned to the car park, sighting collared dove, but unfortunately not the target bird, black redstart. However the remainder were rewarded for their diligence when they found a black guillemot splashing about in the water just a few yards from the lifeboat. So we saw 19 species, although the curlew sandpiper is open to discussion, and further suggestions would be of interest.

Ian Muldoon