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Digiscoping Dotterel

With a fair forecast and a free Saturday what to do? Head out birding of course!! And where better than the beautiful Great Orme in North Wales, only a short journey from home in Cheshire. I duly arrived at a ‘not too busy’ car park at the Limestone Pavement, my destination due to the news of a special bird being seen here the day before. As I got out of my car a quick look around revealed a couple of photographers up on the skyline to my left. The fact that they were training their long lenses on something pretty close to them convinced me that that was the direction I must go. So up I headed through the gorse and up onto the higher pavement area.

On arrival I glanced across the sward and movement caught my eye and there was a bird, upright and with spangled golden plumage, a beautiful Golden Plover. But lovely as this was it wasn’t the bird that I’d especially come to see. A quick scan of the ridge revealed a second bird, similar in shape and jizz but this time it was my quarry – a juvenile Dotterel. This bird had probably hatched from an egg on the mountain plateaus of Scotland and was migrating south to its winter quarters in North Africa. Dotterels stop at traditional feeding stops en route and the Great Orme is known as one of these sites. In Spring the brightly plumaged adults will travel northwards and maybe stay for just a day, feeding before the urge to continue to breed takes over and then they’re gone. However in Autumn the return journey isn’t so urgent so birds will linger a little longer allowing then to take on more fuel for their migration south. My hunch that the bird would still be present a day after it was first found had paid off and I had ‘connected’ as they say in birding circles.

Sitting down I set up my scope and digiscoping equipment and waited. Dotterels are known to be inquisitive birds and will approach closely to see what you are and what you are up to! This bird didn’t disappoint, up it came investigating the clicking of my camera. This allowed for real frame-filling shots, especially as I was digiscoping and by default had a high magnification for the photos. At times the Dotterel was too close to get the whole bird in shot, but the pictures would be all the better for the fine detail they would show with it being so close. After a while, with just two of us sitting watching and photographing I decided to call it a day and left the other photographer alone with the bird.

Before leaving the Great Orme I decided to have a quick sea-watch as I was high up and the sea was out there, something we don’t have in the middle of Cheshire!! Bird-wise it was relatively quiet with just half a dozen Gannets gliding past and a Sandwich Tern being the best of the sightings. A dozen or so Kittiwakes passed by far offshore whilst 4 Guillemots fluttered their way past a lot closer in. The commoner birds such as Cormorants and Herring Gulls were out there too but that was all and given what I had seen in about 30 minutes scanning I decided to give up and head home.

It is always nice when you see the bird that you have travelled for and even better when the photos turn out so well. So this was a very successful trip, North Wales rarely disappoints and it is so nice to have this area on our doorstep and so accessible.

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