ON THE EVENING OF SATURDAY 28 AUGUST 1982 I got a call from birding friend Dave Rosair that he had just seen a ‘nice White-rumped Sandpiper’ at Back Saltholme Pool on Teeside. This was very unwelcome news, for several reasons. First, Back Saltholme had become something of a local patch for me, I used to walk there from Billingham station, climbing over pipes across the dykes between the fields but more importantly I had not seen a White-rumped Sandpiper at all yet and I was due to make my first visit to Spurn Point the next day, a long-awaited stay at the bird observatory there. I spoke to one of the finders, John Dunnett, that evening and he mentioned that he was concerned about the bird’s leg colour and that it was either the first White-rumped Sandpiper with yellow legs or it was a Long-toed Stint! However, one of the old timers, Edgar Gatenby, had said that it had a white rump so what else could it be? At least it is obviously ‘only a white-rump’ I thought and even at this early stage as a schoolchild I knew there would be plenty more chances for that one so I stuck to my planned trip to Spurn, by public transport. This included hitching a lift from Patrington, where the bus route ended and over the next couple of days I enjoyed plenty of common migrants, my first Barred Warblers and a hoopoe. However, things took a turn for the worse with the arrival of John Hewitt, fresh from ‘the Long-toed Stint on Teeside’. Worse still, there was now also a Little Whimbrel in South Wales, another once-in-a-lifetime bird, or so I thought at the time. I decided to cut short my stay at Spurn and take the train back to Teeside, along with Paul Holt, who was camping at Spurn at the time. ‘You’re a bloody fool’ said Barry Banson, who used to call the log at the obs and could always be counted on for an insult or two but of course we went anyway. Unfortunately we arrived on Teeside on 2nd September, one day late - the stint was last seen on 1st. To add insult to injury, some years later a small Pectoral Sandpiper at Saltholme Pool was claimed as a Long-toed Stint, drawing me back there again, twice before it was finally correctly identified. The Salthouse Little Whimbrel in 1985 relieved some of the disappointment of August ‘82 but it has taken me over 32 years to catch up with Long-toed Stint. Khawr ad Dahariz or ‘East Khawr’ is one of my favourite sites in Oman and although the encroachment of Salalah is making it look a little more like Teeside with every visit, to finally see one at last was a very special moment, in perfect, early morning light, at close range and with no-one else around. Magic!
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