Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Redshank's Story

We first saw this colour-ringed Common Redshank (ring no: H19) at Santa Luzia saltpans on 13th March 2011. We saw it on several further occasions over the next few weeks, the last time being on 5th April.

Subsequently we were able to find out that the bird had been ringed as a pullus in May 2010 at Westerland in the municipality of Wieringen in North Holland in the Netherlands. Later we also learned from the ringer, Wim Tijsen, that having left the Algarve it had returned to the area where it was raised, arriving there on 21st May. Apparently it is typical for young birds to arrive late on the breeding grounds like this; they are too late to breed but maybe they can find a mate for the following year. The site is a wet grassland, a set-aside meadow near the Waddensea that during the freezing winter was full of water and used for skating! Little wonder then that a Redshank wouldn’t want to stay there year round!

It is well known that many (most?) migrant waders, including Common Redshanks, return each year to spend the winter in the same area. We have records of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits, for instance, that we have seen in successive winters in exactly the same saltpan here in Tavira. So it was only natural that we should expect H19 to show up here again. The first sighting was on 31st December and since then we have seen it (her?) on about half a dozen further occasions, always in the same saltpan and seldom far from what seems to be the favourite corner of that saltpan. It was there again yesterday and we will be keeping watch to see whether we can establish at least an approximate departure date, which we might expect to be earlier than last year if it is going to breed. We have been told that H19’s father (H16) was back on the breeding grounds by mid-March last year so H19 might soon be heading north. We will also hope for confirmation that H19 is indeed a female.

Black-tailed Godwit - they also show a tendency to return to regular wintering sites

It’s interesting that there is also a Spotted Redshank occupying the same saltpan. It doesn’t have a ring on it but we do wonder whether it is the same Spotted Redshank that spent much of last winter in the same place. What do you think?

Spotted Redshank - probably the same individual that was here last winter

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