Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Return of Sandie?!

[Warning - read to end, the initial report blogged here was a hoax!]

Report of Sandhill Crane S over Dunbar 08:15hrs Friday 16 September may relate to the same individual famously tracked S in 2009, later wintering in France? Could this be the same bird as was seen in Finland on 5 September, then Estonia on 8 September? A further report over West Walton, Norfolk, on Saturday 17 September.

In retrospect, given it would have needed to break free from carrier species (Common Crane) and get across the North Sea angled very much to the west, this would seem very unlikely - as concluded by others. Perhaps more likely is there are two - the current UK one either being a new arrival, or possibly the 2009 bird retracing its route having been missed on other migrations? The east coast track is consistent with the latter view, though equally could be adopted by a new arrival if it had again made landfall on the Northern Isles.

The rest is history of course, Sandhill Crane at Strathbeg 22-26 September, possibly a couple of days earlier, where amazing photos were finally achieved; as of Thursday 29 September was again being tracked south - over Newbiggin 09:16hrs then down into Durham, Cleveland and N Yorks by early afternoon. Looks like we missed a chance in a lifetime in Lothian, oh to have been watching on the Wednesday!!!

It seems to be widely accepted that this is the same bird as initially reported mid-September, and with a lack of any other sightings this does have some logic - though many east coast sites are well watched - could it really have got all the way back up from Norfolk to Strathbeg without being seen? Possibly from Berwick (after all we missed it coming south again, though it may have been out over the sea), but even that looks a bit odd. All speculation, though availability of high res images from Strathbeg may now help. Comparison of details is possible with pics from Scandinavia, unfortunately low res but better than nothing, e.g. these for head profiles, right (Strathbeg and Estonia), and left (Strathbeg and Estonia), there may in fact seem to be some hints of similar patterns, is the cheek patch lower in the right? But the flight shot from Finland shows one nick in the left wing, not seen on Strathbeg bird. Perhaps time will tell.

Comparison with better photos from Finland seems to confirm it is definitely a different individual, much greater contrast of white cheeks on Scandinavian bird. Also discussed on BirdForum.

Postscript 1 - re comments below, time has indeed told, it later came to light that the Dunbar report was a hoax, still made it into the pages of BB though!

Postscript 2 - on 9 November the much anticipated message came through of relocation of the bird in Iberia, it has apparently found Common Cranes in Badajoz province of Spain and was seen there on 4 November, full details.


  1. Hi Stephen, this link may be of interest:

  2. Thanks for the link Bruce, I had seen the BirdForum discussion of same; he did appear on the Lothian thread from time-to-time and we had civilised discussions about scarce breeding warblers* and sea ducks trends**, seems surreal he then hoaxed us with Sandie, though it has to be said it was an inspired prediction - the genuine one most likely flew down our coast too :(