Thursday, 8 September 2011

Another photographic Stint.

An early sea watch wasn't without interest as a scattering of about six Skuas over a period of about an hour kept my attention. There were no Bonxies and nothing to indicate they were other than Arctic Skuas, although all were a long way out and I'm unable to be 100% certain. Gannets were fairly numerous and Sandwich and Common\Arctic Terns were also heading south all along a similar distant "path" in the sea. The arrival of a traffic warden in the car park made up my mind that it was time to move on and I decided on an overdue visit to the Restharrow Scrape hide.

A first glance there was very little around the scrape, but slowly birds began to show themselves. A distant movement along the bank of a small island at the far end of the scrape revealed a Little Ringed Plover. Then to the right of the plover an even smaller wader was feeding on the edge. It could only be a stint, and even at this distance it was identifiable as a Little Stint. Three Ruffs then appeared and flew into view just to the left of the hide. There were feeding actively and in time one had worked it's way to the edge of the little island just in front of the hide.

Ruffs (and Reeves) are very variable in size, the smaller females( Reeves) sometimes appears only slightly larger than a Dunlin, while the larger males (Ruffs) can be larger than a Redshank. Although not a particularly elegant wader the can appear quite Long legged at times.

The often feed while wading in water and the long tertial feather are easily ruffled in windy weather make the bird look rather untidy.

It took some time but eventually the island in front of the hide was visited by the Little Stint, in company with the Little Ringed Plover. While the hide here does not allow quite such close photography as the forward hide at the Backsands Scrape, the views were very satisfactory.

It didn't stay right in front of the hide for very long, as it was spooked by the arrival of a large flock of thirsty Starlings.

The Starlings weren't aggressive but just very boisterous as the splashed in the water and arrived in noisy groups.

Even the much larger Ruff soon began to look nervous as more of the Starlings arrived, fully living up to their scientific name of Sturnus vulgaris.

In the end the Ruff decided to move on, nicely showing the white sides to the rump and the diffuse wing bar.
It wasn't long before to two smaller waders were back, working their way round the edge of the small island. As the Stint bent down as it faced the hide, the pale braces running down it's back showed it to be a juvenile.

The two small waders now seemed to have formed a bond and they stuck together as the fed along the edge of the water. The Stint is only around 13cm, or 5 inches long, but it is a long distant migrant, breeding in the tundra regions of northern Europe, Russia and Siberia and wintering throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the coasts areas of India and Sri Lanka.

Unlike some other very small sandpipers the Little Stint has black legs.

Finally the Plover and the Stint flew of to the far end of the scrape, and presumably began the long walk round the edge that would eventually bring then back to the hide.

A Kestrel frequently hovered over the ground round the scrape and a Sparrowhawk briefly landed in the closest tree to the hide, before dashing across the top of the reed bed.

At this time of year you can't get far from a Green Sandpiper if you are near water, and one of the two that were around the scrape cme and sat in front of the hide for quite some time.

Corvids of various species were in and out as they came to drink and bathe, but this Rook remained on the island. gently nodding off as it sat quietly.

A couple of times it came down to drink, each time returning to it's resting position.

Just before I left two of the Ruffs were feeding just to the left of the hide. It was now time to go, after an above average visit.


Derek Faulkner said...

You did a brilliant job there with photographs, of helping people identify the three waders, very useful I should think. Well done.

Tony Morris said...

Thanks Derek, a pity it wasn't a Least Sandpiper!

Kieron said...

Hi Tony,
I completely agree with Derek, the photos of the waders are very useful. As somebody who does most of their birding on farms or woodland I experience a kind of meltdown when confronted by a water's edge covered in waders!
I am off to Elmley on Sunday and if the rain isnt too bad hopefully I wont struggle as badly as i normally do with wader ID.