11 July 2016

The blur of pencil on paper

Nothing suggests a good bird like a busy notebook and sketch pad. Take Friday evening, for example, which saw a proper blur of pencil on paper as an unexpected wader greeted me at Brandon Marsh.

I arrived at Brandon just before 5pm with the vague aim of watching and sketching Hobbies for a while. And I did, eventually.

But first I was waylaid for nearly an hour at East Marsh. Because as I counted Common Tern chicks and sorted through the Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover, my scope came to rest on an elegant, but sleeping, wader.

Pale, slim and speckled, it looked for all the world like a Greenshank, a bird I haven’t seen in Warwickshire for absolutely ages (possibly since this digiscoped beauty at Draycote in 2005). 

 And when it lifted its head and started elegantly feeding around the island, I was able to confirm that it was indeed Tringa nebularia – an unexpected treat and a joy.

It’s not a terribly difficult bird to identify of course, but I took my time to work through its distinctive features – the green(ish) legs, the needle-thin and slightly upturned bill and, when it eventually fluttered gracefully from one side of the island to the other, a diagnostic white ‘cigar’ shape on its back.

Having watched and then sketched the bird to my own satisfaction (fortunately I set low, low standards for my own artistry), I moved on to Green Sandpipers at Teal Pool (now up to three in number), and then on the Ted Jury Hide for some Hobby sketching. Just one Hobby showed, but it did me the great service of sitting stock still in the nearest tree for half an hour – a great end to a great evening.

Bird of the day: Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), a returning migrant which will be found at shallow waters around the country over the next couple of months – but usually only as single birds. Their relative scarcity in inland counties like Warwickshire only adds to their elegant charm.

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