Long-billed Dowitcher – Lodmoor NR, Dorset

In early May I had visited Frampton Marshes in Lincolnshire to see a Long-billed Dowitcher which had been there for nearly nine months. My trip was timed to co-incide with a visit to see my sister in Cambridge. Amazingly, after such a long stay, the dowitcher had gone and I still can’t quite believe it!

It was great, therefore, to have the chance to exorcise this memory when another Long-billed Dowitcher was found at Lodmoor. After initially being elusive the Long-billed Dowitcher soon settled on the west scrape.

Having seen the Lapland Bunting at Portland Bill I headed off to Lodmoor and joined a group of around ten birders and fairly soon had good views of this North American wader. It spent some time preening and then sleeping and then actively feeding when it looked like a godwit but fed like a snipe.

The key features were the very long bill which is roughly twice the head width, the blunt ended and slightly drooping bill and the obvious supercilium. The blacker bars on the tail are slightly thicker than the white bars which separate them. Short-billed Dowitcher has the black bars thinner and they have a bill which is closer to 1.5 times the head width. The tertials are also more strongly patterned in juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher.

Long-billed Dowitchers breed in the wet tundra in the far north of North America and eastern Siberia, they migrate south to winter in southern USA and Central America. While migrating down the eastern seaboard this bird was perhaps carried across the Atlantic as part of the recent tropical storm Gabrielle.

Also at Lodmoor there was a white Ruff and a Knot and good numbers of Mediterranean Gulls and Sand Martins. I’ve only seen one Long-billed Dowitcher in Britain before and that was on the River Hamble in April 1988.

At around 11am I left and rang Sarah to say that I was on my way home. However, only five minutes later WhatsApp started reporting that a grey hippolais warbler had been seen at Farlington Marshes…

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