Harkess Rocks – Bamburgh – 02 May 2018

181 – Common Scoter

Common Scoter

A female Common Scoter sitting on the rocks

182 – Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

A flock of Purple Sandpipers getting wet!

Well, it’s been a long, long time since I photographed more than one new bird in a single birding session, but that’s precisely what happened today.

Helen and I are staying in Bamburgh in Northumberland for a few days, and this afternoon I decided to take my camera with me along to Harkess Rocks (just along the beach from Bamburgh Castle), to see what birds were around. I had previously been aware that Purple Sandpipers were regular Winter visitors on the shoreline in the area, and I had read just a few days ago that they were usually present right through the Winter until about May, so I went hoping that I might just get lucky.


A beautifully-marked Turnstone on the beach at Bamburgh

On arrival, I immediately discovered a flock of about a dozen Turnstone and a single Ringed Plover on the beach, just in front of me. The Turnstones, in particular, seemed not to care about my close proximity and allowed me to take a great many close-up shots of them as they scurried-about on the sand looking for juicy morsels, whilst evading the waves breaking on the beach. Their mottled plumage was showing beautifully in the afternoon sunshine, and I really enjoyed taking photographs of these fabulous birds.

I cast my eyes about to see what else was present: a Sandwich Tern was diving into the sea about fifty yards offshore, a pair of Eider ducks were sitting on the rocks near the water’s edge about a hundred yards away, and a number of assorted gulls were floating out on the sea not too far away from my position.

I next decided to go a bit nearer to where the Eider ducks were located to take some photos of them. The male looked very dapper as he stood tall and stretched his wings whilst I snapped away at him. It was only then that I realised a third, (predominantly brown) bird was sitting near the Eiders. I knew it wasn’t a female Eider, but it didn’t register with me at the time that I may have been looking at a new bird for my list. I decided to take a couple of shots and identify the bird later-on. I was rather pleased, then, when I later discovered it was a female Common Scoter – a bird that I had never knowingly seen before, let alone take a photograph of!

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle provided the backdrop to my day’s Birding session

Surveying all the rocks nearby, I soon spotted another flock of birds on an outcrop of rocks separated from my position by the incoming tide. I quickly realised that it was a mixed flock of Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper – the very bird I had come hoping to see!

Unfortunately, the Sandpipers were all roosting with their heads tucked under their feathers. Also, they were rather farther away from me than I would have liked for a clear photo. However, I was soon rewarded for my patience when a wave crashed against the rocks where the birds were roosting, causing them all to temporarily fly-up to avoid the spray. I was very lucky to catch the moment with my camera.

Common Scoter 2

A rather distant group of Common Scoter out on the sea

After about an hour of snapping-away, I decided to head back to the house where Helen and I are currently staying to see what I had managed to capture. Just as I arrived at the car I noticed a small group of birds about two hundred yards offshore. They turned out to be Common Scoters too! What an exciting experience!

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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