Saturday 17th May – the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect   Leave a comment


The expression ‘Patagonia Picnic Table Effect’ was coined by American birders after Rose-throated Becards were discovered breeding near a picnic are at the town of Patagonia in Arizona. Birders coming to see those birds found other good birds in the area and so yet more birders came and even more goodies were found. Something similar occurred at Lytchett Bay on May 17th.

Saturday 17th was put aside for packing for our upcoming trip to the States and for Margaret’s choir concert so local birding was the last thing on my mind.

I was busy sorting out gen for birding in New Hampshire when a text from Ian Ballam said there was a Wood Sandpiper at Lytchett Bay. I used to describe Lytchett Bay as my ‘local patch’ but in all honesty I don’t go there often enough for it to maintain that description. That is clearly my loss, as stalwarts like Shaun Robson, Ian Ballam, Paul Morton and Nick and Jackie Hull continue to turn up interesting migrants.

Wood Sandpiper is a regular but scarce migrant in Dorset; there quite a good chance of encountering one if you bird Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch or Lodmoor, Weymouth on a regular basis in early autumn, but I have only ever seen six at Lytchett Bay over the past 36 years. So although all my optics were packed for travel I hurried down there and found Ian Ballam still watching it.

Margaret spent the entire afternoon at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone for the dress rehearsal with the orchestra for the evening’s performance. Having dropped her off I returned to complete my travel arrangements. I was supposed to pick Amber up and take her to the concert but then just 50 minutes before I had to leave I had news that Paul Morton whilst looking for the Wood Sandpiper had found a Temminck’s Stint at Lytchett Bay. This was the first record for the Bay and was not to be missed. This tiny wader breeds in Arctic Norway and Arctic Russia and is a very scarce migrant, usually seen in mid May. Once again the optics were hastily unpacked, wellies donned etc and a quick yomp over the wet and muddy fields followed. On arrival I found three birders including Ian Ballam (who had taken time off from the FA Cup Final to search for this bird) but none had seen the bird. After a few minutes I had to leave or I would not pick Amber up in time, but then a faint but shrill trilling was heard and the Temminck’s shot out of the marsh and towered up flying strongly to the north never to be seen again.

We got to the concert on time and I have to say that the Barclay House Choir and St Peter’s Orchestra’s rendition of Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Armed Man’, John Rutter’s ‘Gloria’ and Bob Chilcott’s ‘The Little Jazz Mass’ was just wonderful. Their new musical director has introduced some great modern pieces and hugely widened their repertoire.

Unfortunately my camera was packed so I have no photos to illustrate this remarkable day, which is a shame as we had seats at the front within feet of the orchestra. A single photo of the Wood Sandpiper from Ian Ballam and a thumbnail from Paul Morton is all I have to post.


WoodSand LB IB

Wood Sandpiper, Lytchett Bay – photo by Ian Ballam.

This tiny thumbnail was all that was left after Paul massively enlarged his image of the Temminck’s Stint. Only the size of a sparrow and a some considerable distance away, it is remarkable that anything was photographed at all.

Temmink's Stint LB PM

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