Steep Purple

After an uninspiring seawatch from Blackpool North Shore this morning I went to the nearby shorebird roost. If you are new to this blog this used to be a boating pool built into the sea defences, nowadays it’s a go kart track. Depending on whether the go karts are doing their thing waders roost on the outer walls or within the perimeter. It’s the only site for Purple Sandpipers on the Fylde coast these days, and during the week a third bird was reported with the usual two.

When I was at University in Lancaster there was a wintering population of a dozen or so ‘Purps’ that gradually began to dwindle. Careful observations showed that they didn’t take evasive action in flight like the Turnstones they associated with, and were disproportionately falling prey to the local Peregrine. They are barely annual there now.

Why am I recounting this? Well despite being predicted to die out Blackpool’s wintering Purple Sandpiper population clings on, and a factor in that is perhaps literally clinging on. In the picture above the Redshanks and Turnstones have stopped feeding with the tide high, but two of the Purps are continuing to feed on the steep sides of the car track. Their ability to ascend such steep slopes presumably gives marginal gains in being able to feed longer.

This isn’t the greatest picture but you can see that both birds are extending their right legs but not their left legs to enable them to balance on the gradient and continue feeding.

I didn’t think the third bird was present but after taking the feeding pictures saw it was among the other waders already roosting. Perhaps it isn’t as confident as the regulars in wave dodging rock climbing!

If you know where to look all three of Blackpool’s current Purple Sandpiper population are visible in this shot. Basically every smaller bird that isn’t a Redshank is a Purple Sandpiper.

Purple Sandpiper (left), Turnstone (right) and Redshanks (above). Although not the best angle to see all the features of the Turnstone well note the more variegated upperparts and the brighter legs not much different in shade to the Redshanks.

If you are local these birds are immediately in front of the old Cabin Lift on North Shore. The best days to look for them are when there is a bit of an onshore breeze, on milder days they roost on the seawall furthest away from the Promenade, when it’s windy they are more likely to be in the position in the opening photograph.

4 responses to “Steep Purple”

  1. Jeff Allcock avatar
    Jeff Allcock

    Hello Stephen,
    Thankyou for writing your blog “Steep Purple” I was due a weeks stay at Tiffany’s Hotel 25/3 to 1/4/ 23 and noted that the cart track was only one mile north from there. After two failed attemps to spot the Purps, I again set off on Wednesday 29th, the tide was high and there was a slight breeze coming from the South.
    This time the Redshanks and Turnstones were on the near side part of the cart track wall rather than the outer part as of my two previous visits.
    Sure enough there was a purp amongst them, amazingly close and unflustered by my presence. After fourty five minutes of watching the birds shuffling around I can deffinately say there was only one purp present. I noticed the turnstones have the same technique of feeding on the steep slopes as the purps do
    Regards, Jeff Allcock.


    1. Thanks Jeff. I think there’s only one Purple Sand lingering as mentioned in more recent posts. Glad you connected.


    2. In fact we were both there on the 29th. Shame we didn’t bump into each other.


      1. Jeff Allcock. avatar
        Jeff Allcock.

        I was there from 5.00pm to 5.45pm


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