Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham Harbour, Sussex – 10th June

Well, any American with Hudson in the name is OK by me and this was the second wader with that distinction to visit Blighty in 2015. Like the Avalon marshes Godwit I hadn’t heard of this Whimbrel either until it turned up in Sussex yesterday. A check of my north American field guide suggested it must be another recent species split of birds previously classified as races.

The hudsonicus Whimbrel has a darker rump and underwings than it’s European phaeopus counterpart, as the earliest pictures on RBA (see here) show; also a longer bill and more striking head pattern. Worth a look then! I had planned to check out some dragonfly sites around Bournemouth and Poole today, but start-of-day cloud and cold wind in Oxford suggested a plan B might be sensible. In the event it was sunny on my reaching the M3 at Winchester, but by then I wanted to see this bird and so I turned east on the M27 not west.


Pagham harbour

On approaching site just before 11am it became clear that a lot more people felt the same way. Vehicles occupied every available space along the lane to one of the Pagham Harbour LNR car parks, that itself was heaving. From there, Church Norton chapel it was just a short walk to where a good sized group (pictured above) was watching five Whimbrel, including the visitor out on the harbour’s low tide mud.

In my distant, digiscoped images (below) the Hudsonian is the sandy coloured bird on the right. The more I watched it the more distinctive it appeared, the duller belly, head pattern and bill length all being plain to see. At one point the bird even flapped its wings, revealing the darker undersides. But mindful of the need to get back to plan A, I didn’t wait to see if the five birds would take flight.

European and Hudsonian (right) Whimbrel

European and Hudsonian (right) Whimbrel


From those around me I learned that debate over separation of the two races is ongoing, one classification body having done so but not the other. Oh well, might as well tick it! And it was good to have fitted a birding twitch into all my current insect work. This was the ninth British record for Hudsonian Whimbrel and my third new Nearctic wader of the year after Greater Yellowlegs and the Hudsonian Godwit.


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