Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Antisocial Sandpipers...

Interesting the day to day ebb and flow of birds on the patch. On the river at Halfway House things seem to be in a continuous state of flux; the state of the tide and the prevailing weather mixing things up nicely. Just what a patcher needs to keep them on their toes. Take the patch Common Sandpipers for example. The first bird appeared on March 20th, then two more singles in the first week of April. During the next two week no sandpipers were to be found, but Little Ringed Plover moved through. Then in the last week of April there was the first clear influx of Common Sandpiper on the river - 4 birds that stayed together. This coincided with the first Greenshank, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and 2 Avocets. The sandpipers and Greenshank hung around for about a week before finally moving on at the end of the month. Then, during the back end of May, Dunlin, Knot and Sanderling all moved through. After that, things went quiet until... end of June when 2 Common Sandpipers returned (presumabaly non-breeders) then nothing... until last week, when things kicked off again with the start of Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper return passage, the arrival of Dunlin and Ringed Plover back on the river and a steady build up of Lapwing.

Judging the numbers of Common Sandpipers using this small bend in the river has proved to be tricky though. They move around a lot, can sit tucked in along the river banks and use the canal as well as the river. They've become, therefore, a bit of a fascination. Are birds moving through in a steady stream or am I seeing a small group stopping over? Off the back of yesterday, I'm thinking the latter... and they're quite an antisocial bunch too it would seem. On July 13th I saw just 2 birds, by the 15th there were 4 and the next day I saw 5. Two birds seemed to hang around the western shore, 2 the eastern shore and 1 zipped about in the middle. What they didn't do was get together - ever! One of the 'couples' was an adult and juvenile. The single bird was an adult. The other 2 I've not got close enough to to tell. On the 17th, I saw just 2 together again and so had assumed the 5 I'd seen were passing through. Yesterday though, there were 5 again. New birds or the same 5? Well, they distributed themselves in exactly the same way as the 5 had done earlier in the week; 2 east, 2 west, 1 middle - so it looks like they're stop-over birds. Just goes to show how easy it can be to miss birds (3 it would seem on 17th) - even when you're scanning hard! It'll be interesting over the next few weeks to see if the Dunlin and Ringed Plover 'reappear' or if they've really moved on - didn't see any yesterday... and, how big this Lapwing flock will get. It's now at 474 compared to about 60 a week ago. You know, there's something pretty cool about the patch-scale comings and goings of stuff. Can't wait to see what the next couple of months brings :)

PS The Little Owls that frequent the first barn at Big Hand Ranch en route to the patch have clearly bred successfully - single fledgling in the gap on the roof yesterday.

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