Get ready Africa - the wader migration has started

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3 years 7 months ago #86711 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Get ready Africa - the wader migration has started
Spring was early in the northern hemisphere and it looks like the Palaearctic wader migration has started a week or so ahead of usual. I was at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire last week following reports of good numbers of Green Sandpiper and was not disappointed. This is a species I missed in Southern Africa despite many reported sightings, particularly in the Kruger Park, over the past several years. I did see a single bird, once, at Eldoret (sewage farm!) in Kenya in 2010, but the Slimbridge experience was far better. This is just one of 15 individuals counted on but one of the ponds. It may be a female as they leave the breeding grounds first.

Yesterday I went to one of my favourite RSPB haunts, Minsmere in Suffolk. Actually I went to see Little Gull, another UK winter visitor, after a group of 25 had arrived along with reports of Mediterranean and Caspian Gulls. What awaited me though was a wader spectacular with several different species still in almost full breeding plumage dropping into the East Scrape. By mid-morning the East Hide was full (of lots of fancy cameras and lenses) but with lowering cloud and the occasional drizzle squall photographic conditions were far from ideal, compounded by the fact that most of the waders chose the far side of the scrape to settle down. So please forgive the necessity to "over-process" these images, some of which are straight 640x480 crops from the RAW images.

First bird seen was one of the few to appear immediately in front of the hide and was for me the most confusing - the reason being that the waders are arriving in everything from full breeding plumage to almost full winter plumage. This one though is probably 2/3 of the way through the transitional phase and turned out to be a Spotted Redshank

This one arrived a little later and much further off but serves to illustrate the possible confusions arising from plumage states, with this being still almost full breeding plumage.

His cousin the Common Redshank is a resident species, but numbers are almost tripled by migrants coming in from higher latitudes. This one is still predominantly in breeding plumage.

Another problem with waders is that they can arrive in large numbers and tend to mix with the other species, so you really have to inspect every individual so as not to miss anything. Black-tailed Godwit were the most numerous species yesterday. Here is a female in almost full breeding plumagewith a Common Redshank.

and another female on her own

and yet another with a resident species the Common Ringed Plover

One of the "drop-ins" was a single bird of a species very familiar to southern Africa, a Common Sandpiper. This one is most likely a 1st summer bird, and the first Common Sandpiper that I have seen in England - my UK lifer for the day.

Another familiar to South Africa and both a resident and (predominantly) migrant species at Minsmere is the Pied Avocet

and the most numerous resident species was the Northern Lapwing - this one just starting to get the winter streaking on the face

We had a fly-over by 2 Whimbrel before 3 Common Greenshank landed in the distance and were immediately harried and chased off by the avocets. Then it was the turn of the Dunlin. I counted 11 individuals. Again you can see (just about) the difference in plumage states with at least one individual losing most of the black belly of the breeding plumage.

Very skittish birds they were constantly changing location.

"Coup" of the day was a pair of Red Knot in full breeding plumage that set down just on the limit of photography (unless of course you had an 800mm lens! - one guy did)

Some of the day's other birds were,

an adult White Wagtail with an annoying constantly pestering juvenile in attendance

a big surprise in Barnacle Goose with goslings. This species is mainly a winter migrant to the UK, but as many as 900 pairs of over-wintering birds remain to breed throughout the British Isles.

and the gulls and terns

Two terns were present, shown here side by side, juvenile Sandwich Tern to the left and breeding plumage adult Common Tern

a (probable) adult Sandwich Tern in flight

an adult Common Tern and 2 juvenile Sandwich Tern with a pair of Little Gull (front) and juvenile Black-headed Gull behind

4 Little Gull with a mix of Common and Sandwich Tern

and 4 Little Gull showing how "dainty" they are in comparison with the much bigger and bulkier Black-headed Gull, which is dwarfed itself by the Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.


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  • Doug
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3 years 7 months ago #86712 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: Get ready Africa - the wader migration has started
Cannot wait!!! A lot of work has been done clearing reeds at Marievale to open up old wader habitat so it should be AWESOME!!!

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