Sunday 7 September 2014

Stint Seconds 7th September 2014

A gloriously warm and sunny afternoon tempted me back to Farmoor for another photo session with the juvenile Little Stint. Unlike yesterday the light was infinitely better although it was tricky taking photos as the sun was shining almost directly across the reservoir, reflecting off the water and onto the concrete where the Little Stint was feeding. Nevertheless I did my best.

I expected the reservoir to be heaving with people on such a nice day but was pleasantly surprised to find comparatively few people except around the yacht club where all the outside tables were occupied with yachting folk having an alfresco lunch and who could blame them.

I made my way to the Causeway expecting to have to walk to the far end like yesterday but was pleasantly surprised when the only other birder present, walking the Causeway a few metres ahead of me indicated that the Little Stint was now feeding on the water's edge only a few hundred metres or so from the beginning of the Causeway, thus allowing me to avoid a long and tiring walk to the far end. Those of you who know Farmoor will realise how fortuitous this is as there seems some unwritten law that all rare or unusual birds visiting Farmoor invariably end up at the most distant parts of the reservoir. Perhaps it's the yachts that scare them off.

The Little Stint, confiding and trusting did not have any such fears and allowed a similar close approach to yesterday, and we are talking literally down to a few metres. Myself and the other birder just sat on the wave wall and waited for it to walk below us along the water's edge, allowing us to take as many photos as we wished. Like yesterday the stint spent most of its time feeding but on at least three occasions walked up the sloping concrete away from the water's edge to rest, fiddle around with its feathers and have a good scratch. I noticed that its troublesome right eye now appears to be back to normal so all is well for its onward migration

Having walked up the sloping concrete away from the water the stint basked in the sun but it was so hot on the exposed concrete that it had to open its bill to cool itself and on one comical occasion the concrete was obviously too hot for it to stand on comfortably whereby it commenced hopping from one leg to the other to alleviate the inconvenience. In the end it sat down in a presumably cool crack in the concrete still with its bill open to cool itself and to give its burning feet a break.

A couple of other birders arrived to take some photos and some curious passers by stopped to enquire what we were looking at. My good friends Paul and Vicky Wren joined me and we had a long chat. It was all very pleasant as the sun shone, the air was still and the sky blue as we all sat on or stood by the wave wall basking in the welcome warmth of a late summer and watched the Little Stint. What could be better?

Seen on its own without, say a Dunlin to compare it with, it is hard to realise just how small a Little Stint is. The only way, as Paul pointed out, to get a true idea of its minute size was to compare it to the profusion of discarded gull feathers lying around. It really is very small

It was the Costa Del Causeway just for a day, just for this afternoon and I reflected that soon enough this late summer warmth would be just a memory whilst the Little Stint if it survives the many perils that beset it in the wild will at least spend the winter months in the continuous sun and warmth of Africa.

I spent another two happy and fulfilling hours with this little bird and it did not seem enough. When, if ever I wonder, will such a close encounter happen again?

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