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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A feisty Semipalmated Sandpiper at Derrymore

Feisty: "Full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited; plucky."

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Derrymore, 6th September 2017 (M.O'Clery).

As ever with Derrymore, you roll the dice. At stake is three hours of your life, mostly taken up with trudging along calf-busting soft sand and gravel to get to the main birding area, the high tide roost of hundreds of waders - or at least that's the theory. Sometimes there can be little or nothing. Most times there is something to warrant the effort.

There were about 700-800 Dunlin present there this evening and among them, this little frosty-looking beaut. The encounter was made all the more enjoyable when after carefully approaching the main flock on the beach, the assembled throng of waders got used to my presence and I was eventually approached and then surrounded by hundreds of small, busy waders and, in the case of this SemiP, at distances down to 20 feet. 

The return walk is made easy after encountering such a feisty and characterful little bird, and one that has just crossed the Atlantic at barely two months of age.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Derrymore, 6th September 2017 (M.O'Clery).

The SemiP regularly returned to and tried to defend a few square feet of small tideline pool, despite being dwarfed by the occasional intruding Sanderling or Dunlin. Each time one of its competitors came near it adopted this posture, tail high. It didn't always seem to work and the Sanderling in particular seemed unimpressed but the Dunlin would occasionally give it a wide berth after this apparent show of aggression. Perhaps it gives the bird just enough time and space to snatch its fair share of food despite being the smallest bird on the beach.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Derrymore, 6th September 2017 (M.O'Clery).

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Derrymore, 6th September 2017 (M.O'Clery).

A photo illustrating the reason for the name - the small webbing between the outer and middle toe, the 'palmation'. Or a semi palmation. Its not much of a web, really.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Derrymore, 6th September 2017 (M.O'Clery).

And here's 'titch' in his temporary territory, giving it large to any intruders. Two feet of pool edge to defend and everyone knows it.