Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tang Snipes in Colwell Bay!

Shetlanders call it the Tang Snipe or Plover’s Page, but we know it simply as the Dunlin – the archetypal small wader whose relatively small British population is supplemented by the continental crowds to give us a winter population of some half a million individuals!

The video above shows a small flock present on the rocks in Colwell Bay at low tide a few days ago. It never ceases to amaze me how close you can approach various bird species here on the island. I’m used to seeing a distant speck through a telescope, but this flock quite happily went about their business whilst I stood quietly watching them just 10m or so away!

This winter plumage is not exciting, but soon the new reddish upperparts will begin to appear, together with a dramatic large splash of black on the breast and belly. The change is so dramatic that, in the past, it was believed that there were 2 species, the ‘summer dunlin’ and ‘winter dunlin’.

So why the strange name ‘Plover’s Page’? Because of the strange habit Dunlin have of following Golden Plover around and sticking close. Why? It’s reckoned that it’s a good way of being warned by the Golden Plover of predators on the prowl.

I love the sewing-machine-action of feeding Dunlin. In the video below you can watch one individual hunting amongst the rocks for small molluscs, worms and crustaceans.

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