Sunday, 25 November 2012

Purple Sandpipers, Southsea Castle - November 2012

It was pretty breezy today and so in the absence of any bird ringing I had to find something else to occupy me. I had heard via the grapevine that a few purple sandpipers were back at Southsea Castle and so decided that this was the place to go. The wind was strong on the sea front and the swell was bringing waves crashing in, but the tide was out and so the rocks and sea defences were exposed.

It didn't take me long to find a few purple sands, initially three, then five and then after a thunderous wave 12. The birds were spending much of their time feeding on the rocks which form the start of the sea defence, and as the waves crashed in, some would fly up to evade the water whilst others just sat still as water splashed down around them. 

Purple Sandpiper being drenched by the Crashing Waves, SouthseaCastle

Purple Sandpipers annually winter along the sea defences at Southsea Castle but it has been many years since I last saw double figures of birds there.  

Juvenile Purple Sandpiper, Southsea Castle

Juvenile birds can be easily identified by the presence of white fringing to the scapulars and wing coverts, as illustrated on the pictures above and below. Adult birds are more boldly streaked on the breast and flanks, and lack the pale fringing to the wing coverts.

Juvenile Purple Sandpiper, Southsea Castle

At least five of the birds I saw were juveniles, which was nice to see given that most of the wader species I encounter these days seem to have had very poor breeding success. Unfortunately the light was very poor, and the on-set of some very heavy, blustery showers curtailed my visit but hopefully there will be some better days during the winter when I will be able to pop back for some better photos.

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