Friday 11 October 2019

Late Summer Waders at Farmoor 19th September 2019

The early autumn brought a welcome week of consistent sun and warm temperatures, the veritable 'Indian Summer,' resulting in the unlikely concrete shores of Oxford's Farmoor Reservoir, in the heart of England, playing host to a delightful assortment of wading birds making their way from the high Arctic to their various winter homes in Europe and Africa.

Even more pleasing is that these waders were very confiding, allowing one to approach and admire them from very close range. They were all juveniles and possibly had never seen a human before so were yet to acquire any fear. One or more Dunlin are virtually forever present at this time of year but today the one Dunlin was augmented by single individuals of less frequently encountered wader species such as Ruff, Knot and the most appealing of them all, a superb juvenile Little Stint, which is by no means an annual visitor to the reservoir.

The Ruff and the Knot struck up an association, following each other around the reservoir, picking their way through not only thousands of moulted gull, goose and duck feathers but the hundreds of Greylag and Canada Geese loafing away the hot afternoon beside the beguiling blue waters of the reservoir.

So too did the Little Stint and Dunlin keep similar close company and wander the concrete shoreline together, picking up minute morsels as they progressed. The Little Stint kept a wary eye on the geese, but still ventured close and the comparison between their respective sizes was there for all to marvel at. 

Little Stint and Canada Goose
The sultry afternoon sun persuaded the Dunlin to rest and sleep but the Little Stint preferred to carry on feeding until it too grew tired and wandered up the concrete slope to join the Dunlin in repose. A sight that was enough to charm even the least sentimental of observers and offer a different perspective on a bird's life from one that is purely scientific and objective.

Note the difference in size between the Little Stint and the Dunlin
Little Stints are tiny, little larger than a sparrow but their presence brings wonder and incredulity that such a scrap of life can, intuitively travel so far, from the high Arctic all the way to Africa, south of the Sahara.

Here are some images of the Little Stint that spent around a week at Farmoor and the other waders I saw there today, and which illustrate their beauty as well as their enduring charm.

Juvenile Little Stint

Juvenile Knot

Juvenile Knot and Ruff

Juvenile Ruff-male

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