Broad-billed Sandpiper at Goldcliff Lagoons, Gwent – 19th June

It didn’t take long to find some more vagrant wader action. Broad-billed Sandpiper is a lifer I have wanted for some time but there has always been some reason not to go. So when one turned up this weekend well within my preferred twitching range I finally took the opportunity.

This is a Scandinavian tundra breeder that winters in south and south-east Asia, and passage birds are recorded in Britain every year. Throughout a “day of rest” in the garden at home on Saturday I had noted sightings on RBA from Newport Wetlands NNR on the Severn estuary. I wanted to see this BBS was settled because earlier in the year another or possibly the same individual at the site was very mobile and eluded a number of Oxon birders who went for it.

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I decided to go if the BBS was still present on Sunday morning, and when the first report appeared on RBA at 7:30 off I set. The bird was in an area of the reserve known as Goldcliff Lagoons, of which there are three. These are accessed about 500 metres east of the Farmers Arms pub in the village of Goldcliff, along part of the Wales coast path signposted “Redwick 5km”. A number of hides and viewing platforms along this track overlook the lagoons.

I had expected to have to pick another wader out of a large flock as at Titchwell on Friday, but in the event things were surprisingly easy. As soon as I joined a group of birders on one platform the Broad-billed Sandpiper was pointed out to me. It looked very distinctive with a white belly and large double supercilium. Then it moved to join a group of six black-bellied Dunlin for comparison. In this company the BBS resembled a large Stint amongst those Dunlin, being noticeably smaller and paler with a different feeding action.

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I watched the Goldcliff BBS for around 20 minutes then the birds all flew to another of the lagoons. Being unable to relocate them on the next lagoon and feeling I was unlikely to get better views anyway, I decided to turn around and go back home enjoying the warm glow of this much desired tick. The BBS was found again nearer to the coast line in the afternoon.

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Great Knot on Titchwell freshwater marsh © Andrew Last

Meanwhile up in Norfolk the Great Knot (pictured above) was drawing large crowds and by all accounts showing well. The successful latecomers included Badger and Andy with whom I kept in touch throughout the day. On Saturday that bird had been much more mobile, as I had feared today’s quest would also be. But my luck was in for a second time in three days and I have gained two highly desirable scarce waders as life list additions.

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