Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Wood Sandpiper, Upton Warren

Wood Sandpiper

What is it about this wader, apart from its scarcity relative to common and green sandpipers, of which several also pecked and probed at the Flashes this afternoon? The bird is certainly handsome with its clean supercilium, mottled upperparts and more slender build than the green, which is the only other medium-small tringa sandpiper regular in this country. Really it’s misleading to lump the common sandpiper in here, being on its own of the genus actitis in the Western Palaearctic. And it does look quite different.

The woodie today seemed to show brown in the mottling – hard to judge at the distance it was keeping – but a faint smudge of tawny beside the breast also suggested that it’s a juvenile. It has been mentioned on BirdForum as such.

The Collins Bird Guide notes that it will have been born on bogs and marshes in the taiga. Until I started to rewrite my SF novel, which posits that the Gulf Stream will cut out, I'd have been hard pushed to say what taiga was. Well, here's the lowdown: the sequence in the arctic runs, from coldest down, something like ice cap, tundra, taiga, boreal forest, steppe. Taiga does have trees but not so many as the forest and principally conifers. So, now you know how to make a wood sandpiper feel at home, or a taiga bean goose presumably, as opposed to a tundra bean goose.

But I digress. Whatever it is about tringa glareola (which seems to have no meaning other than pratincole), the bird is still drawing the crowds at Upton. Enough that the hide was full, although partially with tripods straddled across benches, a breach of etiquette, surely, also mentioned on the BirdForum thread.

I stopped at the Cuckoo Hide on the way out and got my reward in a snake swimming towards me. Lord knows what it was but it had an orange nape. That should nail it for someone out there.

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