According to the RSPB website, Purple Sandpipers are supposed to be scarce south of Yorkshire, which perhaps explains why some local photographers have been known to risk life and limb (and their camera gear) clambering over wet rocks just to get a photo of one of these birds. However, despite what official sources say, Purple Sandpipers can in fact be found along the Thanet coastline every winter, with the stretch between Stone Bay and Dumpton Gap being a good area to get close-up shots of them. The photo above was taken from the relative comfort (and safety) of Broadstairs jetty.
Often described as "dumpy little waders" in the guidebooks, Purple Sandpipers are slightly smaller and not as bold as the more plentiful Turnstones with whom they share their winter haunts. Their propensity for skulking under the jetty, or creeping furtively along the seawall while picking at the seaweed-covered stone makes them easy to overlook unless you're actively seeking them out.
Distinctive features include a downcurved beak and mustard-coloured legs. The purple sheen that gives them their name is less obvious, but if the light hits them at the right angle, it shows up quite well:
|Broadstairs, February 2010|
Don't dismiss these "dumpy" birds; under the right conditions, they can be very photogenic.
More of my Purple Sandpiper photos on Flickr
Purple Sandpiper (RSPB)
Purple Sandpiper (Birdforum)