Well, I thought that would demand some attention!
Thurs. 8th. September 2016.
Marston sewage treatment works, nr. Grantham, Lincolnshire.
It was approaching dusk as I was finishing off checking my local patch. I have access to a private area where there are always one or two green sandpipers present, they are very common at Marston being seen most months of the year. One or two even over-winter each year.
As expected there was a couple of sandpipers around the edge of a small reservoir, one flew off revealing it’s trademark black and white appearance. The other bird walked out of sight. I didn’t think any more of it and just registered two green sands in my mind. Ten minutes later I walked back past the same spot, having checked a couple more wet spots and recording another green sand. As I passed by a ‘tringa’ sandpiper flew up, calling from behind some vegetation, just a few metres in front of me. Admittedly the light was beginning to go but ”green sand” said the image recorder in my brain, but after half a second of hearing it my aural senses said Whoa!, hold on, that’s a bit different from the usual call. Most birders that know me will agree that bird calls are not my strong point but I am so familiar with green sand, hearing them on almost every visit here. This one sounded odd, it was an agitated, alarm type call, consisting of about six notes but perhaps not as ‘panicky’ as green sand.
It flew to a small stream approximately forty metres away. By the time I got it in my bins it was about 25 metres away from me, descending into the sream. It was only in view for a second or two. The Solitary sandpiper seed had already been sown in my mind and it was then that I was hit with the realization that this WAS one! No big white rump, upperparts all the same dark shade, (no wingbars or contrast noted), and! a dark shaft the same colour as the back, all the way up the centre of the tail and rump. The bird was flying away from me, there was still enough light to see quite well. I crept through the long grass and stinging nettles on all-fours hoping to get another look at the bird. Nearing the spot where it went down, the bird flushed up again and did a similar flight, landing a little further along the stream. Again I got onto it with my bins for a second or two and noted the same features, the central shaft showing well. It landed amongst thick vegetation. I then searched further along the stream but never saw it again.
It is worth noting the behavior of this bird, the green sands always flush up and fly either high and towards the river or to another wet area a long way off. This was the first time I can remember a bird flying into the nearby stream, relatively short distance.
It was pitch black when I got back to the car. I never slept a wink that night, instead my time was spent making notes and listening to SS calls (and others), on the computer. I was satisfied that I had indeed seen a Solitary sandpiper but needed photographic evidence. Hopefully it would be there in the morning. I had a late night chat with Trev Lee, he agreed to meet me at 5am, regardless of the fact he’d got a long, hard day’s work ahead. The upshot was…. No bloody sign! Dang!
Trev left for work, I spent the morning looking, followed up by two further visits that day and many more checks over the following days but without success.
I realize how rare this species is but really don’t see how this bird could have been anything other than a solitary sandpiper. Admittedly I didn’t get some of the finer features belonging to this species-protruding feet, face pattern etc., but the combination of green sand type call, dark central tail and green sand type jizz, obviously belonging to the tringa group of wader just about rules everything else out. I have actually been through every wader species on the earth, (tringas and all others), checking to see if I could have mistaken it for any other with a similar tail/rump pattern and cross referencing each bird with it’s call. The answer comes back the same every time… Naaaa!
I have waited until now before putting the word out, didn’t want hundreds of twitchers trampling all over the place, which could have lost me the right to look at the private areas. With no photos I am still wondering what to do next regarding writing a report for the British birds rarities committee.