The Sahara Sun and a Sandpiper

Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire.

The wind, not cold, but constant and fiercely blustery swept across the reservoir, pushing the ducks and geese to seek shelter at one end of the rectangluar stretch of water. The light washed the landscape with a weird sickly orange as Storm Ophelia whipped up Saharan dust and wildfire smoke turning the sun an apocalyptic shade of red. Cormorants perched on the buildings, indifferent to the wind as their sharp sleekness cut the gale around them. They took to the air, sliding down the breeze to the water with an oily easyness. 

On the wind ruffled water strange reflections danced from the weird light, each wavelet gilded with red gold. A Coot paddled labouriously across the metallic lake and away into the dark water.

We’d only come to the reservoir to take the dog for a walk, so it was by pure chance that we stumbled across a little bird that is somewhat of a rarity. A couple of birders and another photographer pointed it out to us. A Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos, a scarce passage migrant from America and Siberia. This little wader’s finely marked plumage puts me in mind of a Snipe’s cryptic feathering, rich browns, tawnys and creams, but is instead perched delicately above elegant yellow legs.

It foraged calmly along the strandline, picking up small invertebrates. It’s hard to comprehend the journey this 21cm long bird might have been on.

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