Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Red-necked Stint

For great bird photographs go to Bird Photography Weekly

The Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) is the smallest shorebird to make the long migration from the northern hemisphere to our area here. I usually see them busily hunting for food among the saltmarsh plants or sitting in small flocks at high tide. They usually let you approach quite closely without doing more than sleepily blink at you.

The last two days have had unusually high tides along most of the east coast area. I have never seen them so high here. (One tide expert said there have not been tides this high for the last 18 years!) Bay-side walks and car parks were underwater. We kayaked to two of the roosts we usually count and there was no land at all left for the birds. The water was right up among the trees and tall rushes and grasses. The birds were whirling in great flocks overhead – a spectacular sight! They would swoop down over their normal roost site then whirl up again and fly further along the bay. A few minutes later another flock would whirl overhead and the same thing would be repeated. It would have been two to three hours before they could find dry roosts around the bay again. At first we did not see any of the smaller shorebirds in these flocks and then saw several large flocks. When we kayaked to the area of the bay where they had flown we found a few tiny bits of sand just coming out of the water again and on each there were tiny birds packed closely. The photo below shows Red-necked Stints and a Red-capped Plover in one such flock. There was also a single Lesser Sand Plover with them.


  1. I like the feeling when you can get close to the birds and not spook them and just be accepted as a non threat and a curious visitor. Its funny how sometimes the shorebirds will have one leg up and their heads tucked in, but with their eye still looking at you.

  2. I agree NM. Definitely more satisfaction to get your photos and get out without disturbing them.

  3. Certainly a great photo opportunity but rather worrying for the bird in those numbers to find roosting places.

  4. Kayaking through that cool water, ahhh, nice thought!

  5. Hi Arija, as a friend pointed out to me it is these high tides that flush out accumulated rubbish and also kills off any weeds that don't like the salt.
    Yes, Duncan the water temperature was nice but the strong winds made paddling a bit harder. Good exercise I guess.

  6. Very beautiful birds. Nice photo. :)))

  7. I came back for a second visit to say that I spotted Red-necked stints too recently though I have not yet posted a picture.

    Also, The Black-winged stilts found in Chennai, India, are the same as in your area. :)))

  8. Hi Animtreebird - very interesting that we have the same birds in places so far apart. I look forward to seeing your photos of the Stints.

  9. Hi Mick,
    Congratulations on your in-flight shot!
    I had a look at the EXIF and will post some technical comments. Hope you find them useful. If you don't like me doing this, please, delete this post.

    The shutter speed is 1/3000. For such an action you only need a third of it - 1/900 to 1/1600 will be more than enough.
    Aperture 9.5 is quite closed for fast photography - I'm pretty sure camera chose it to compensate the too high ISO setting which is 800. During daytime an ISO of 300 - 400 will be enough.
    The metering mode for this shot was Multi-Segment, while I find that Spot or Center Weighed are more suitable for birds as they are small things that usually occupy only 1/10 of the frame's surface.

    For bird shots I find that I prefer to disable all but the central focus point, thus making the camera focus precisely at what I want.

    Continuous high-speed burst is the way to go. I usually shoot in twos, threes or fours. Even for roosting targets. Then you have very similar images to choose from and usually one is much crisper than the others.

    Finally, I can see an 'Exposure bias value of -1/2, which, I guess, means negative exposure compensation.

    All these settings: the high ISO, negative exposure compensation, closed aperture and too fast shutter speed, lead to a bit grainy (noisy) image, which is somehow underexposed and pretty desaturated.

    But, as you said, studying the EXIFs is the best way to learn and improve.

    I quickly read the dp review article about K200D to just get familiar with the model. It is a very nice camera and will be capable of producing fantastic images. Just keep exploring its settings.

    Best regards

  10. Hi Nickolay, thanks for your very detailed comments. I appreciate you taking the time to write these. Some of the things you write I had already worked out after looking at the exif data but it is good to have you confirm them. Some settings I can change quickly while I am out looking at birds and other settings that I am still learning about I only change at home and then go out and see what I can get! This time I was just happy to get a photo of the Stint flying and posted it despite its faults! I will improve in time! Thanks again for your comments.

  11. That's a great photo illustrating the size difference.

    Crested terns always make me smile. Exquisite in the air, but on land just plain scruffy.

  12. Hi Mick,

    Thank you for sharing these stints. When you mentioned they came from the northern hemisphere to your area, I had to look them up further. They come all the way from NW Alaska and Siberia!!! That's quite the flight and it makes them not common at all as some other website described them.

    And I appreciate tilcheff's comments on your EXIF data too :) I also have difficulties changing things up in the field, especially when lighting conditions change so fast. I need to slow down, but then I'm afraid I'll miss some action!

  13. Hi Red, I agree about the camera and missing birds if you're changing settings. There's usually only one chance to get the photograph and I guess I think a poor photo is better than none at all! I'll get better in time!

  14. Hey Mick, nice captures of the Stint! I love the in flight shot.

    I want to thank Nikolay for the great advise also since I just got my camera a few weeks ago, I have been trying to figure out the best settings for bird photography and how to set them!

  15. Thanks Larry. Good luck with your new camera.