Your Bird­ing Month

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

Birds to look for in Oc­to­ber in­clude Great White Egret, Wa­ter Rail and Stonechat

The Dun­lin is the ul­ti­mate con­fu­sion species for wader-watch­ers. De­spite be­ing one of our com­mon­est win­ter­ing shore­birds, with more than 350,000 in­di­vid­u­als, and ar­guably our com­mon­est pas­sage wader, many in­ex­pe­ri­enced bird­watch­ers (and some ex­pe­ri­enced ones) still have prob­lems with Dun­lin. It should be the small dumpy wader against which all other small dumpy waders are judged. But in­stead it is the small dumpy wader which is very of­ten misiden­ti­fied as some­thing much rarer. When they don’t have the dis­tinc­tive black bel­lies of breed­ing adults, Dun­lins have an un­canny abil­ity to con­fuse. So, they are reg­u­larly mis­taken for Curlew Sand­pipers and a range of scarce and rare waders, no­to­ri­ously in­clud­ing Baird’s and White-rumped Sand­pipers. The so­lu­tion, of course, is to be­come as fa­mil­iar as pos­si­ble with the ‘other’ plumages: the grey and white win­ter plumage and the neatly-fringed and striped ju­ve­nile plumage (com­plete with fine black flank streak­ing). And while work­ing on fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with the plumage vari­a­tions, also study the vi­tal shape and struc­ture (and bear in mind that the dif­fer­ent sub­species have quite rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent bill lengths). Dun­lins are at their best in au­tumn into win­ter, when along with birds such as Knot, they may form huge whirling flocks of thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als, flash­ing white and grey as they wheel over mud­flats. It is truly one of the great sights of Bri­tish bird­watch­ing.

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