On 20/09, Nina, the new warden at Draycote Water found a strange wader on the boulders near the Valve Tower. She called Bob Hazell who went out to have a look and John Judge happened to turn up as the suspicion it was a Purple Sandpiper was confirmed. I was just leaving the flat so I quickly stuck the news on Twitter and scrambled. The bird either had one eye, or one eye closed and seemed rather lethargic, spending a good deal of it’s time asleep. The dull evening light combined with the distance put paid to the chances of good photographs and the best of my efforts are reproduced below for no other reason than the rarity of the occurrence, this being the first record of the species at Draycote since 2009.

1st W Purple Sandpiper, Draycote Water.

The Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Palearctic was, as so often, the most detailed source of information I could find. It confirmed that adults have a worn wing by late summer, lacking the whitish fringes to the coverts and tips to the primaries shown by this bird. Though there are some retained juvenile scapulars, the rounded dark centres to the upper rows and broad, diffuse breast streaking are second generation feathers and the bird is essentially in first winter plumage.

1st W Purple Sandpiper, Draycote Water.

John then found an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost and between us we pulled out four Caspian Gulls, two first and two second winter birds. I am still trying to shake off a chest infection I have had since the Bird Fair and hardly been out but did spend Friday searching for a bird of John’s. The reason he and I were meeting at the roost on Thursday was that he has twice heard a tern-like call over his house only to look up and see what appeared to be Black-headed Gulls. When he first texted me about this John had listened to calls on Xeno Canto (I am currently unable to post ‘live’ links) and thought it sounded like Bonaparte’s Gull. This immediately made sense to me as I heard Bonaparte’s Gull for the first time this spring (the long-staying bird at Farmoor), called it tern-like and remarked on the fact that it was not a sound you would walk past. I tried a number of areas around that end of town and ended up doing the pool at Newton where I was pleased to find a group of seven Black-tailed Godwits. I suspect the gull may have been spending time in the quarry behind the cement works at Lawford, which is inaccessible and I think the best chance for finding it would be in the Draycote roost. I tried it again on the Friday night and again drew a blank. The roost is comparatively manageable at the moment but a lot of birds come in after dark. There was no sign of the sandpiper on Friday so it was either stronger than it looked and moved off early in the morning, or fell foul of the Weasels and Mink that haunt the stonework in search of Bank Voles.