29 August 2005

Rutland without Birdfair

Two weeks ago I visited Rutland Water during Birdfair, a three-day long festival of birding which attracts around 20,000 visitors to this magnificent reservoir each year. It is a great event, but with one possible downside - no one gets much birding done! So today I was back to make amends. It was certainly quieter, although with it being a Bank Holiday Monday, it was by no means empty. However, the real difference was the birds.

First up, the Ospreys for which Rutland is renowned. No sign of their 'homegrown' birds, the pair which have raised three young here this year. Instead I was treated to wonderful views of one of the youngsters that have been translocated here from Scotland this year. An excellent lifer, and long overdue.

Second were the Curlew Sandpipers. These were at the far side of the reservoir, feeding with Ruff and Dunlin, the latter making for a tricky half-hour of identification. However, eventually I was able to confirm to myself which were Dunlin and which Curlew Sands - the elongated and more curved bills, longer legs and bodies, and perhaps most notably of all, their pale cream supercillums (stripes above the eyes). These are amazing birds, having so recently bred in a short summer on the very edge of the Siberian arctic. The adults have gone through to Africa already, and here were the juveniles following on. And for me, that made two lifers in a day!

There were other good birds around too - a Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit, several Green Sandpiper and perhaps a dozen Snipe for example. All signs that return passage (autumn migration) is well underway, and contributors to a great day's birding.

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