Long-billed Dowitcher at Egleton Bay, Rutland Water, Leics – 22nd Mar

My third Long-billed Dowitcher provided the best experience yet of this Nearctic wader. After three weeks of checking out the same birds over and again on RBA, and trawling through another same old Oxon year list for 2016, I just needed to go somewhere today. The attraction was that published photography suggested the Rutland bird was showing rather more closely than another LBD I observed recently at Keyhaven, Hants (see here).

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s extensive and superb Rutland Water Nature Reserve must have the most hides, 36 and all named after different birds, of any showcase reserve I have visited. The Dowitcher has been watchable from the Shoveler hide that overlooks Lagoon 3 for most of the interval referred to above. On my arrival there mid-afternoon I learned the bird favours two islands about 300 metres out.

Fairly soon the Long-billed Dowitcher emerged from behind the right hand island and began to work its way along the nearer shore feeding all the while. This continued for between 10 and 15 minutes. Maybe I’m suffering from over familiarity with the more common European waders, but at the start of another local passage season it just seemed so attractive to be observing something a little different, not too many miles from home. Then the object of my admiration went out of view again from whence it had come.

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Long-billed Dowitcher at Rutland Water, Lagoon 3

It should go without saying that I will not be submitting the above image for any awards, but it does show I am not making all this up. To pick out some more decent stuff see here. After another 30 minutes the consensus in the hide was that the LBD must be sleeping on the far side of the island. One local birder said he had watched it, mainly sleeping for two hours on the previous afternoon. So after 10 more minutes I went off to explore the reserve a little.

Smew, Slavonian, Red and Black-necked Grebes, and Great Northern Diver had all been recorded at this reserve in recent days. But the conversation in the Shoveler hide had suggested sightings of those birds were mostly distant. I did observe one red-headed Smew on lagoon 4 during a brief look around.

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