Saturday, 9 October 2021

Long-toed stint, St Aidens RSPB

For once my dodgy bladder came up trumps when it woke me up at 4am and for some reason I decided to check Birdguides. I was jolted fully awake when I saw that a least sandpiper which had been seen yesterday at St Aidens RSPB had been re-identified later in the evening from photos and was now considered to be a long-toed stint, only the 3rd ever in the UK and the first since 1982. I immediately jumped out of bed and got ready to go.

St Aidens is only a one hour drive for me so I could have waited on news this morning, but I knew that the bird would attract a large gathering and I reckoned that a lot of people would have missed the late re-identification and would only find out about it when they woke up, whilst others would wait on news. If I was quick I might get there before the really big crowds. I arrived at St Aidens in the half light at 7:15am to find that there were already a few hundred people on site scattered around the reserve in groups of up to 50 or more. For a while it seemed like the bird had gone, but on such a huge reserve as St Aidens there was always a good chance that it was just out of view somewhere.

Most people seemed content to choose a spot and wait but my plan was to keep moving and to get to as many places as possible, and this paid off because just as I was walking past a small group of birders on the central footpath somebody shouted out "Got it!". Apparently it had just flown in and was right in front of us, about 25m away. I couldn't believe my luck, I managed to get some incredible views of the bird and fired off a few phone scoped images. It stayed here for about 10 minutes allowing another close group of birders to mobilise and get to us quick, but then it flew 100m further out, though it was still a decent view for the majority of later arrivals. 

By now it felt like I was in the middle of a scrum so I gave up my prime spot and moved away to the edge of the crowd where I still had a good view of the bird but social distancing was a little easier. After another 15 minutes I decided to head off, I'd seen the bird as well as I was likely to and viewing could only get more difficult as more people arrived. It was time to give up my space on the car park to somebody else. I was home for 10:30am.

Apparently there is another potential record of long-toed stint from Weir Wood, East Sussex in 2011 but that bird has not been accepted by BBRC at the time of writing. I believe it's been recirculated and may well finally get accepted soon.

It's a cracking bird, almost like a miniature sharp-tailed sandpiper to my eyes, less so a wood sandpiper, but a lot different to a little stint, not just in plumage but also in jizz. It's more upright, appears longer legged and has a characteristic stance in part due to a short rear end which makes it look as though its legs are set further back than a little stint.

Of course the leg colour immediately rules out little stint, and it could really only be long-toed stint, least sandpiper or Temminck's stint, and in fact during the past 24 hours it's been identified as all of those birds. Notice the long tertials which completely cover the primaries and also the obvious cheek patch. Apparently this bird is a moulting adult.

Long-toed stint breeds in Siberia and migrates south / south east to India and south east Asia, and it was a possibility when I was in Western Australia but I didn't manage to see any.

The tibia are relatively long which combined with the short rear end and the longish neck, gives the bird a more upright stance very different to little stint. 

Having seen thousands of sharp-tailed sandpipers in Australia I was immediately struck by how similar to that species the long-toed stint appears in these photos. The rusty cap, the faint supercilium, the leg colour, the birds stance and jizz, the general plumage features, it all points to a miniature sharp-tailed sandpiper. Except that it's little stint size.

When it was walking on the mud I could see it's long central toe which made it look like it had very large feet, almost like it's designed to walk on lily pads (see video below).

Awesome feet! Long-toed stint has feet which are as long as the tarsus and although it's obviously not conclusive in this video, you can clearly see that they are long. 

Also today, three spoonbills, two bearded tits and a water rail.

As I was leaving the crowd was really growing and apparently reached 2000 birders.

1 comment:

  1. Great account Colin,I got there as it flew towards Astley lake,managed a few record shots though and great views through another birders scope!!!!


Popular Posts