Today I had my first trip of the autumn to the Spurn area, spending the day doing laps of the Triangle. Due to the westerly winds I wasn’t expecting miracles, and we had a fairly uneventful morning, although we did have a brief view of a barred warbler in flight by the Canal. Plenty of whinchats, yellow wags and wheatears around, and one of my birding posse got a probable female redstart, plus I got whimbrel for the year list among the many waders present. Sadly the reported firecrest was nowehere to be seen, and as expected it wasn’t the rarity frenzy we were originally hoping for!
However our luck changed considerably at lunchtime… we sat on the edge of the path by the stretch of beach by the Blue Bell cafe car park, looking out to sea while we ate our sarnis, my scope half-arsedly set up by my side. While we were munching away we saw a long-winged wader, without obvious wing markings, fly down the sea from the N, veering inland landing on the large flat piece of sea defence opposite.
We quickly scoped it, realising it was something out of the ordinary, and we saw a small, but tall-looking, bird with a distinct beige-coloured supercilium, yellowish legs, a straight bill with a slight curve at the end, a long-necked, alert posture (recalling a cross between redshank and ruff), and (most tellingly) a chest pattern of vertical streaks with a distinct cut-off, tapering into a central point, contrasting with a plain, pale belly and flanks.
I recognised it as a pectoral sandpiper, a species I’d watched at Wombwell Ings last autumn, but we carefully ruled out all confusion species first (including sharp-tailed sand!), before being 100% sure we actually had a pec. We scribbled down the notes above quickly, as there were some children playing very close to it ready to flush it any moment, but it gave us a good two minutes to scruitinise it before it buggered off down the coast towards The Point.
Looking on Birdguides there was a pec sandpiper in Northumberland over the last week or so, that hasn’t been seen since Thursday, which may be our bird here moving down the coast (we didn’t know this when we saw it).
Afterwards we had a quick trip to Patrington Haven, where we added grey plover and marsh harrier to the day’s tally, but sadly couldn’t make out any curlew sands among the distant dots of the waders.