ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Birding Trip Report: Stilt Sandpiper at Frampton Marsh Nature Reserve 26/08/2018

Updated on August 26, 2018
An adult Stilt Sandpiper taken in Texas (not by me) whilst on migration.
An adult Stilt Sandpiper taken in Texas (not by me) whilst on migration. | Source

The Initial Report

It was just another ordinary day at work, my mind cruising on autopilot until Friday night and the promise of a 3 day weekend, a weekend that would be divided up between birding locally during the day, and writing in the evening. However, on Wednesday (22/08/17) at approximately 11:20 AM I received news that would alter my weekend plans slightly. A Stilt Sandpiper had been reported at Frampton Marsh Nature Reserve, in the county of Lincolnshire, close to The Wash on England's east coast. In my head I earmarked Sunday as the day to pay a visit, the only thing I could do in the meantime was simply pray to the birding Gods that it wouldn't decide to fly off.

I did debate with myself whether or not to take a trip on Saturday, but there were certain mundane everyday jobs that I had to attend to. Moreover, I wanted to have a wander around my local patch of Elmdon Park, just to see how things were going bird wise. I ended up spending a few hours at Elmdon clocking up 48 species including a small flock of Ring-necked Parakeets, which I was quite pleased with. I took it as a good omen for the trip ahead.

Where is Frampton Marsh?

RSPB Frampton Marsh:
RSPB Frampton Marsh, Farmhouse, Frampton Roads, Wyberton, Boston PE20 1AY, UK

get directions

The Trip

I went to bed early Saturday night, with every good intention of being up and out early on Sunday morning. But as is often the case, plans can go slightly askew. I woke up next morning and was horrified to see that my charging phone read 07:40. So without further ado I shot out of bed and hastily prepared for what would be a 2 hour drive from my home in Birmingham to Frampton Marsh, a nature reserve just a few miles from the Lincolnshire town of Boston.

After getting showered, dressed, wolfing down my breakfast and of course making sure my garden birds were stocked up with food, I was ready to hit the road. I had managed to do all my morning tasks in just over an hour, meaning that we (myself, my Mom and the dog) were able to set out before 9 AM. Hopefully any traffic we would encounter would be fairly minimal and easy to negotiate, but with it being a Bank Holiday weekend anything was possible.

However, I often find that whenever I travel anywhere in the East of England, its usually fairly plain sailing. Whenever I go to Norfolk especially, a 2 hour trip can often seem like a 10 minute jaunt up the road, as opposed to a trip to somewhere like the New Forest, where a 2 hour trip can feel like 6 with the sheer amount of traffic around there.

Along the way, we passed through the pretty Lincolnshire town of Stamford, characterized primarily by the fact that nearly all of its buildings are made from local Lincolnshire Limestone and Sandstone, all of which were originally laid down in the Middle Jurassic Period, over 100 million years ago. My attention however, shifted away from the buildings when a Red Kite drifted lazily overhead. I only got a brief glimpse of course, but it was enough to see it adjusting its tail to cope with the crosswind that swept through the town.

It had been raining on and off for almost the entire duration of the journey so far, but upon leaving Stamford and heading further east, the rain became heavier and more consistent. A quick glance at my phone showed that we were just 10 minutes away, but then disaster. A warning light appeared on the dashboard, and then a message informing me that 'a drop in tire pressure had been detected'. At times like this, a million possibilities swarm through your head ranging from a puncture to a simple malfunction of the warning light. Even so I had no choice but to pull into the nearest service station and check on the tires. All were fine, apart from the front passenger side one, which had deflated slightly. There was no sign of puncture though, so I simply pumped it up and luckily the warning light disappeared.

A photograph of Frampton Marsh taken by Andy Mabbett on a much nicer day than the day I visited.
A photograph of Frampton Marsh taken by Andy Mabbett on a much nicer day than the day I visited. | Source

Frampton Marsh Nature Reserve

Frampton Marsh itself is a wonderful mixture low lying pastureland and salt marsh with a number of pools dotted around. It's a haven for a wide variety of wildfowl and waders. After passing through the village of Frampton itself, we followed a single track road which led to the visitor centre and adjacent car park. The rain had eased slightly, but I decided to don my waterproofs just in case, this is England after all. Dogs are understandably prohibited from entering the reserve, but there was a trail outside the reserves boundaries that was suitable for dog walkers. So with binoculars around my neck and telescope resting on my shoulder I bade farewell to my Mom and Marley (my Jack Russell), promising not to take too long.

The trail at Frampton Marsh essentially takes you around a wide circle that gives you great views of the pools and also includes 3 hides. I first came to a hide called the Reed-bed Hide, a typical wooden structure that resembled a cross between a bus and bomb shelter. Upon entering, I noticed that it was fairly empty so I concluded that the Stilt Sandpiper was not visible from there. Even so, given that this was my first visit for many years, I decided to sit and do a little bit of birding. Spread out in front of me was an array of wildfowl including Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Mute Swan, Northern Shoveler, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and a fair number of Dunlin. My attention was soon diverted by a conversation that a couple of my fellow birders were having.

A middle aged gentleman with a broad Mancunian (Manchester) accent reported that somebody had tweeted that the Stilt Sandpiper had been sighted on the North Scrape just after midday. A quick glance at my phone informed me that was just a few minutes ago, but where was the North Scrape? I didn't remember seeing it on the map. The aforementioned middle aged gentleman asked the question that no doubt a few of us were asking silently. To which, a local birder affirmed adamantly that there was no such thing as the North Scrape. So where on earth was it?

A couple of other birders piped up informing everyone that an earlier report stated that it was showing well from the East Hide. No sooner had they finished speaking I was packing up my belongings and preparing for the journey around to the East Hide.

A photo of the Stilt Sandpiper taken by yours truly from the East Hide.
A photo of the Stilt Sandpiper taken by yours truly from the East Hide. | Source
I took approximately 100 shots but this one was among the best
I took approximately 100 shots but this one was among the best | Source
Another photo this time shown feeding in the company of a couple of Dunlin.
Another photo this time shown feeding in the company of a couple of Dunlin. | Source

The Bird

The rain was now falling in driving sheets and so it was with great relief that I entered the East Hide, and an even greater relief to find it crowded with birders all looking in one direction. The Stilt Sandpiper was here. I had to be a little patient, as the hide was fairly small, and each and every birder was taking the opportunity to admire and photograph the bird. Finally though, after a little bit of maneuvering I secured a position where I could set up my telescope. I managed to quickly locate the bird that was feeding rather frantically in among a mixed flock of Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits.

It was fairly easy to identify, as this particular individual was an adult still in summer plumage so its under-parts were quite well barred, although it had already lost its rusty ear coverts, suggesting that it was gradually developing its winter plumage. Another ID marker that helped it stand out was its rather long, blunt tipped and slightly curved bill, making it rather similar to a Curlew Sandpiper. The Stilt part of the bird's name comes from the fact that it has rather long legs when taking its body size into account, which served as another ID marker.

I don't own a camera as such, instead I rely on a technique known as phone-scoping in order to take a picture. Basically I hold my phone up against my lens and adjust accordingly until I get a decent image. I'm no photographer, so I simply took a series of record shots to prove that I had actually seen the bird. Normally I can pick out a few decent ones.

Why All The Fuss?

So, you may be wondering why I decided to travel over 100 miles to see just one species of bird. Well, Stilt Sandpipers are a species of wader that are native to North America. They breed on the Arctic Tundra before migrating south down to South America for the winter. However, every now and then a few individuals get blown off course by winds or storms. They can turn up in places as far away as Europe, Japan and even Australia. Normally this is a fate that befalls young birds making their first journey, and indeed most of the records of this species in Britain are of young birds, but the individual at Frampton Marsh was a full adult, making the record all the more remarkable.

As I walked back to the car in the driving rain, I caught glimpses of Yellow Wagtails foraging in among the cows on the pastureland, and marveled at a Western Marsh Harrier that drifted over my head. I reflected on a sight that I may never again see in my lifetime. I reflected on the journey that bird must have made and the things and places it must have seen. Then, there was the realization that my life-list for Britain now stood at 310, a fairly modest total by the standards of twitchers, but one that I am proud of. I drove back to Birmingham with a mixture of relief and quiet contentment, the kind of which you can only feel after completing a successful trip.

© 2018 James Kenny


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)