Sunday, 23 August 2009

Greenshank and Birdfair, Rutland Water


The greenshank belongs to the same tringa genus as wood sandpiper but is much larger and much more common. In fact some even nest in Scotland while the rest breed in boggy pine forests of northern Europe. This is terrain favoured by the woodie, for whom it is described as taiga, so I guess the greenshank likes taiga too. "The wonderful thing about taiga is that taiga is..." Sorry, couldn't resist. As befits waders, both species need their trees punctuated by water.

At Rutland’s lagoons today one bird was on its way back to Africa or may have been near the end of its travels. A few hardy individuals do spend the winter in our more sheltered western estuaries. The lagoons also held several ruff, a wader that is pretty much in a class of its own. The male’s extravagant breeding plumage, especially the neck feathers, named the species from the item of clothing that ruff more readily brings to mind.

Now, why was I at Rutland? Er... Oh, yes! The British Birdwatching Fair, whose theme the last three years has been critically endangered birds, like Balearic shearwater. 2009’s focus is on birds that have been lost and may yet be found. Now, isn't that an awesome thought? For all our take-over of the planet it’s still possible that species not seen for decades may yet be around. The Cebu flowerpecker is a case in point, presumed extinct early last century but rediscovered in 1992. BirdLife has identified 47 other birds for which we should not yet give up hope.

I met Erik Hirschfeld, who operates just the other side of the knife-edge. He edits the Rare Birds Yearbook, which summarises the state of play for the 190 critically endangered species. I bid for this in the Birdfair’s auction but was seriously beaten out of contention. Good on whoever ended up with it!

Other encounters were Dean Eades and the good folk at BirdLife Malta, about whom I hope to be posting much, much more.

PS. While writing this, I glanced out of the window to see a hobby hawking insects – yet another first for Redditch.

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