Early start for Ireland’s first Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)

Sunday was an exciting day.

A late-night exchange on Viber as Saturday drew to a close had me scrambling  to get organised for a very early start the next morning. It was half-past midnight by the time I was ready. I set the alarm for half-past-four, and proceeded to not get any sleep for four hours. Yikes!

What on earth had possessed me?

One of these… that’s what!

Ireland

Ireland’s first ever Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus) at Pilmore Strand, Co. Cork.

Ireland’s first ever Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus) had been found at Ballymacoda / Pilmore Strand, Co. Cork late on Saturday evening. It was a first for Ireland, and less than an-hour-and-a-half from home. No-brainer really!

So along with a birding friend I was up and out at daft-o-clock to arrive in East Cork on a rising tide. There was no certainty the bird would show, but we were there waiting, and we had high hopes.

There were a few other birders around, with more arriving all the time from all over the country. We had an anxious wait scanning flocks of small waders until the star-of-the show finally put in an appearance at around a quarter-past-eight.

A flash of inconclusive orange in a fly-by flock of ring plover hinted at its presence before Colin Barton, (who runs the Cork Bird News service on Twitter and tweets on @GalleyBirding) picked it up among a flock of “ringos” and dunlin that landed on a sandbar in the middle of the estuary.

The bird was perhaps a little distant, but nonetheless offered up excellent views.

Lesser Sand Plover

Distant Lesser Sand Plover, digiscoped in marginal light with a mobile phone through the Meopta S2 spotting scope cranked up to 60x.

It was what most birders would describe, I think it’s fair to say, as a “stonking” bird!

After a while it took flight… only to re-appear over on the Pilmore side of the estuary, this time much closer. I had a superb view, but just as I was lining up for a better shot someone stood right in front of me.  Ho hum! Well, I guess you’re always going to get a bit of that on a twitch of this magnitude! There must have been around 40 people there that morning — perhaps a few more — which for Ireland is a sizeable twitch.

Still, I managed to get a couple of reasonable enough record shots on the mobile using the Smartphone Digiscoping Adapter the nice folks at Novagrade sent me to review (they’re not going to win any awards… not because of the adapter I hasten to add… but because the light was marginal, and I had the scope cranked up to 60x, and I’d left the DSLR in the car because of sporadic downpours).

 

What a cracking bird for my first “first Irish” — I reckon it could be a while before the next one!

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

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