Tuesday, 30 May 2017

American Golden Plover at the Gann.

Our annual trip to Pembrokeshire rarely provides me with a new bird species for my list. Back in the day when I first started visiting, many species like Guillemot, Razorbill, Chough, Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater were all seen for the first time here. Around 12 years later though, I still visit to enjoy the coastline and its wildlife ever year. With our visit in late May, the majority of the migration period is tailing off on the west coast. A few arctic breeding waders or a late Skua can liven a day up so what I was not expecting to occur on the first day of this years trip was for a national rarity to turn up. A Turtle Dove as soon as we arrived at our accommodation already made for a good trip, however late evening, news filtered out of an American Golden Plover at the Gann.
As well as being a lifer, ‘AGP’ would complete the trio of Golden Plovers in the UK, added to the fact it was at one of my favourite sites in Pembrokeshire, it was clear where we were heading the next morning. Luckily, by the time we were just ready to leave, news was already out confirming the bird as still present. With the tide now coming in fast, we arrived and walked the shingle to the river mouth. A couple of birders were present and quickly gave a relieving message that is was still present and was on the small section of beach still not covered by the rising tide.
What a stunner!

A full breeding plumage male American Golden Plover!!

Sleek, sexy and leggy, this out of place yank gave good views as it slowly walked its way towards the shingle spit it roosts on as the tide rose. We had about 10 minutes viewing at ‘close range’ (that still being around 150ft away) where the bird fed and showed off all its defining features, primaries beyond the tail, short tertials, extensive black on underbelly/tail as well as the bold golden and white spots on its mantle and wing feathers. 

The last feature to be given away was the dark grey/ bronze underwing colour, when the bird took flight with a Grey Plover and flew around the bay, before coming back to settle on the shingle bank with a flock of Oystercatchers at the river mouth.
We stayed around across high tide, hoping the bird would come out to feed onto the fresh mud, however it moved more distantly with its Grey Plover companion and fed on the saltmarsh north of bay. It looked stunning in the freshly emerged sun, but unfortunately a little too distant for any photos.

A good spattering of waders made for an enjoyable visit, with 6 Whimbrel joining the roosting Oycs, 3 Black-tailed Godwit dropped onto the lagoon, 17 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover and 2 Redshank. A couple of colour ringed Oystercatcher took a while to read, however 20 minutes of effort gave me 1 code to report.

 All in all a good visit and an excellent start to the trip!

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