Monday, February 1, 2010

Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints

The Mullens shorebird roost is always beautiful on a big high tide. As I kayaked around into the bay the other morning I could see the larger shorebirds spread out along the edge of the bay. (All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.) All of the bay is very shallow and at low tide there is no water and the saltmarsh vegetation is uncovered. I knew that where I could see the larger birds roosting there was not enough water for me to get in close in the kayak so instead I let the tide drift me in to the head of the bay where I knew the smaller shorebirds would be roosting. When I ran aground I got out and walked slowly in behind a large flock of mixed Red-capped Plovers (Charadrius ruficapillus) and Red-necked Stints (Calidris ruficollis). These little birds can usually be found roosting together. The Red-capped Plover is an Australian bird and stays here all year. It is approx. 15cm. and weighs 37gms. The Red-necked Stint is the smallest migratory shorebird that comes down to Australia. It breeds up in northern Siberia and Alaska. It is approximately the same size and weighs about 25gms. It looks smaller than the Red-capped Plover as it is usually hunched over a little. The little Red-capped Plover is always curious and will often walk closer to get a better look at you, while the Red-necked Stint simply gets on with the very important business of finding food. In the next photo the Red-capped Plover is on the right of the photo and the Red-necked Stint on the left.
I walked closer very slowly and made no sudden movements. The birds let me get very close indeed without showing any signs of disturbance. You can tell that they are not disturbed when your photos show most birds with their eyes closed or half closed!
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12 comments:

  1. Taking advantage of those high tides, I see.
    Full Moon, closer than normal it seems, plus low pressure (leading to tidal surge).
    I am surprised you get out and walk about in the mud. I would have expected it to be soft and squishy. Seemingly not.
    Nice report.
    I have a memory of handling a Red-necked Stint at some stage, a very long time ago. Cannot remember if it was a freshly dead bird (found) or one someone caught in a net. Anyway, for a little bird, they have huge pectoral muscles. They need it for their journey, of course.
    Cheers
    Denis

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  2. Hi Denis, it would be great to actually handle such a tiny bird. I know they are regularly caught and banded in Vic and SA as well as at Broome in WA. The highest tide was yesterday and the weather was not good enough to get out :-( Most of the places I get out and walk I already know from walking there at low tide and in most places there is more sand than mud. I don't like squishing deep in mud either!!

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  3. Great post and photos of the plover and stints, it is nice that you are able to get cose to them and not disturb them.

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  4. Thanks Eileen - taking photos of the shorebirds is great but I enjoy it much more if I know I haven't disturbed them.

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  5. Lovely shot of both shorebirds, Mick!

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  6. Those are gorgeous birds once again.
    How great to get so close to them without them being bothered in the slightest!
    Great Photos as well :)!

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  7. ...you did a great job. I would love to see them! The three middle portraits are gorgeous.

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  8. nice! you got some great shots - i really like the plover!

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  9. Nice shots of the Stints. I wish we had the occasional Red-capped plover visitor down this way.

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  10. Hi Mick.
    Thanks for the comments.
    I guess your area isn't called "Great Sandy Straits" for nothing!
    Cheers
    Denis

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  11. the red necked was a real cutie. :)

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  12. That Red-capped Plover is a beauty.

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