East

About 35 miles away, over the border in the neighbouring County of Suffolk, lies the coastal town of Lowestoft.  Once a thriving fishing port and a centre for ship and boatbuilding.  College days during my boatbuilding apprenticeship were spent here so I got to know the area well.  The town went into decline with the loss of the shipbuilding and the fishing industry is a mere shadow of it’s former self.  North Sea oil and gas brought a period of prosperity before that too declined.  Now the future seems based on manufacturing for the renewable energy market and a reliance on tourism.

The Town’s main claim to fame however is that, at Ness Point, it is the most easterly place in the UK.  Now, you would think that the ‘Point’ would be a place to show off, not everywhere is the easternmost spot of the Country after all.  Make a bit of an attraction out of it, pull in the tourists?  Sadly no.  The area can, at best, be described as ‘a bit rough’.  Reached by narrow, lorry lined, roads, past factories and failed businesses that are now wasteland, under the shadow of ‘Gulliver’ a massive wind turbine.  What could possibly draw local birders to this unattractive location?  The answer…. Purple Sandpipers.

The Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) not totally un-approachable!

It’s been a few years since I last went to admire these cute waders, time for a visit.  So if the Sandpipers attract the birdwatchers what attracts the Sandpipers?  Well, these shorebirds like to winter on rocky coastlines.  They do not feed by probing mud like most of their kin but by picking through what the tides deposit, like seaweed.  Now East Anglia is not graced by rocks, this is an area of soft sandy cliffs and much coastal erosion.  To counteract this, vulnerable places have been ‘protected’ by the installation of sea defences.  At Lowestoft the concrete walls were supplemented with the placement of a barrier of huge granite boulders and it is these the Purple Sandpipers found much to their liking.

Coming to see what I’m up to
The sea walls also attracted Turnstones (Arenaria interpres). Their plumage is starting to brighten up before heading north to Arctic tundra to breed

I was in luck.  Two of these winter visitors were present and with a little patience allowed me to get very close.  I sat down on the promenade and had to wait awhile for the sun to come out from behind a stubborn cloud to get the best shots.  Passers-by were curious as to what I was photographing and were delighted when I pointed out the birds and explained a little about them.  Soon these two will wing their way north to the Tundra of Iceland or Northern Scandinavia for the breeding season and hopefully they, or their offspring, will return for the enjoyment of birders in future years.

Cute or what?
I didn’t pay the Sandpipers to pose for any of my photographs, that would have been stupid as they would have no use for pound notes when they migrate north. However, if I had done this shot would have cost me a pretty penny!

50 thoughts on “East

  1. One thing I enjoy about your blog besides the excellent photos is how you often write about the exact location in which you took those photos. I can then explore myself thanks to Google Maps. Your composition of the two birds “posing” on a large rock is outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to set the scene so to speak Michael, sometimes it’s important to realise not everywhere is a picturesque nature reserve but that wildlife can turn up in the strangest of places.
      That last shot was the best of a series as they shuffled about on the rock, right place right time I guess!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have only encountered Purple Sandpipers once, on the U.S. northeast coast. Making a trip to Lowesloft would be a real treat!

    Your photographs are, of course, superb. But getting that pair to pose so nicely, well, that was pure genius on your part!

    A very enjoyable “virtual” birding excursion for today’s cuppa. Thank you, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good Evening,
    Very beautiful cute fellow.
    Nice article and lovely images.
    Thanks for introducing this pretty one to us.
    Regards and blessings
    Uma

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And with an instant reply! Hi Tina, good question. The field guides suggest in breeding plumage the feathers on the back have a purple sheen but that’s not something we would see!

      Like

  4. Brian, wonderful story and excellent images! I’ve investigated your part of England a few times. On Google Earth & Maps of course. 😁 No cause to investigate YOU, right? Right? 🤔
    🤭

    You MUST be a Sandpiper Whisperer, eh? Surely! Come on, tell us what you told them to look so sassy & sexy! Offer ’em dinner, drinks, and a dancing jig you’re famous for!? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, no Prof there’s nothing in my past to cause concern, honestly, squeaky clean me 🤞🤔😉
      Now, I speak to butterflies and whisper sweet nothings to dragonflies as I photograph them but on this occasion, due to several people walking past, thought it best to keep quiet. Most folk think I’m a touch weird as it is 😜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A touch!? 🤨 Pfffttt! Come on, you’re a Carrow Road Canary. I know better! Weird? Well duh! You hangout with me and escaped asylum patient Arkysatan talkin’ rubbish football non-sense—(under his breath…) dayum those Kloppy Reds, excellent boys as they are.

        😄

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahh, so it isn’t just me then. I guess it’s true: The Three Stooges of Three Continents—guess we ARE related, connected in weird ways, huh? 😉

        I noticed his absence as well. I might pop over there and see what trouble I can find. I may just find a “view” of him by the pond/pool glistening from lotion under the warm SA sun. YIKES! 😨

        Hope all those kitty-kats everywhere won’t be licking off his honeysuckle cream cuz he dozed off par chance to dream… of England winning the World Cup in Qatar. BWAAAA!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are most welcome my Friend! 😜 I can’t get it outta my tiny brain either. 😵

        Hahaha! ⚽🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 (unsure as to why your English flag is black—pirates perhaps?) 😉 I’m sure the Three Lions will show well; you boys are quite capable.

        But Brian, I’m still worried, biting my nails, that my USMNT Yanks still may not qualify out of CONCACAF for Pete’s (or Uncle Sam’s?) sake! We have not looked strong enough in our hexagonal, primarily because Canada—a bit of a dark horse the last two FIFA WC Qualifying—has shocked everyone. Which means another crushing blow like WC 2018. Even going into the OCA Intercontinental playoff worries me, especially if we have too many KEY injuries, e.g. to Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, or Christian Pulisic. Nervous just typing this. 😄

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Now that is an interesting paring for me – we have easy access to the Turnstones and I always enjoy looking at their orange feet. The purple sandpiper is one of my big misses for the recent Texas trip. There was one on a South Padre Island jetty that was getting a lot of attention. The one day I had enough free time to go after it was extremely windy. Got to the jetty, noticed the waves crashing high over the rocks, looked at Linda, she told me no way in hell, I went for the puppy eyes, she threatened to slap them out of my skull. One thing for sure – NO WAY was I going to get anything close to how good your shots look. To answer your question – cute or not … YES.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful portraits, Brian, well done. How exciting that the birds allowed you to approach. I have found that when one takes time and sits still, one is often rewarded with close-up views and images. Both shorebirds would be lifers for me, so I’m very envious. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now that I’m back among the living I have some catching up to do!
    These are truly smashing photographs,Brian.
    Beautiful birds and well worth the drive; though I’m not sure I’d be as keen as thee!

    Liked by 1 person

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