Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bird of the week - Redshank

The redshank is usually very wary and is easily disturbed.  Before you can get anywhere near it flies away with a loud alarm call.  So it was a surprise that this one let me get close enough to take a few photos.  Perhaps it didn't see me well with the sun behind me.  Or perhaps it was perplexed by the sight of an old man crawling through the rocks towards it.  When I first saw it it looked like this, both pictures quite heavily cropped.

I managed to get a bit closer for these photos.

Redshanks are more usually seen at a distance, poking about in mud or in rock pools.

Here is another bird that let me get a bit closer.  The very bright sun made its legs look a bit more orange.

The redshank is Tringa totanus.  It seems a bit strange that the redshank and greenshank are so named but their cousin the greater yellowlegs is not the greater yellowshank (or yellowleg).  It might be because the last is an American bird and was named there.

Redshank numbers are declining - due mainly to loss of habitat, as is usually the case.  They nest in upland or wet areas of the British Isles and winter on the coasts.  The UK breeding population is around 24,000 breeding pairs and is boosted by wintering birds from Scandinavia.

Thomas Bewick knew the redshank - this is his engraving for A History of British Birds (1832).  I'm not sure where the name Red-legged horseman comes from but the French name for redshank is Chevalier gambette.  Other traditional English names include ebb cock, sentinel of the marshes and watchdog of the marshes.

You can watch a BTO video on identifying redshanks, greenshanks and spotted redshanks here.  And listen to the BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on redshank here.

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