Sunday 3 December 2023

The Colour Purple

Two Waxwings in Heworth on the way into York to go Christmas shopping yesterday was a bonus. They were still there on the way home mid-afternoon, but had moved on to Heworth Road.


I started out despite the foggy, snowy conditions by having a look for yesterday's Waxwings. They weren't there. I then went into the LDV, but only got as far as Bank Island. The fog was too thick, so I decided to head home, possibly coming back out this afternoon when the fog had cleared. As it turned out, Duncan Bye rang me as I was peeling carrots to tell me he had a dark wader on Wheldrake that looked like a Purple Sandpiper! Unexpected to say the least, but there have been a few inland in the last couple of weeks, presumably as birds move south for the winter. The recent foggy days could well have interupted this one's journey, and it had dropped in on the main flood. After a quick dash down to Wheldrake, I met up with Adam Firth and we soon located the Purple Sandpiper feeding distantly with the Dunlins, looking slightly larger and much darker than the other waders. Fantastic, a first for York and therefore a York tick for all of us, taking my York list to 227.


Duncan very happy with his find, and Adam enjoying the moment.

We walked round to where Duncan was watching it from to congratulate him on a great find. A few other locals joined us over the next half an hour to watch the bird in the murky conditions. Purple Sandpipers are the most coastal of waders, closely associated with rocky shores, where they seek invertebrates among seaweed covered rocks and mussel beds. They are common, but local on the Yorkshire coast, but inland they are always rare, so this is a great bird for the York area. 

The main flood was heaving with birds, with over 100 Dunlin, a dozen Ruff, plus lots of gulls and ducks. Unfortunately, in my haste I was under-dressed and after an hour I was frozen, so decided to head back.


York's first Purple Sandpiper. Honest!

Here is one in more usual habitat, on the end of South Gare in September, together with a Turnstone.



Later, I walked Luna with Vicky down to Acaster and back along the river. Last weekend's flock of 120 Golden Plovers had dwindled to 25. Near Naburn, there was an Otter in the middle of the river. Shortly, it caught a decent-sized fish and swam into the side to eat it. We walked down onto a pontoon and watched the Otter at close range, eating its catch under the shelter of the adjacent pontoon. Once it had finished its meal, it slid down into the water and swam straight underneath where we were sitting! They really are fearless, beautiful animals.

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