Do or Die
Chalk Bank Hide, Spurn, late August 2010. Watching the shorebirds and chatting to Gristy- John Grist. Spurn’s ‘Mr. Shorebird’ (or is it Waders, John?). We were watching the Knot. A species whose large numbers and densely packed flocks can easily mean they get listed as also-ran’s. Not today. 2 aspects of the Red Knot in front of me were fascinating. One was the variety, particularly amoung the juveniles, ranging from the more typical grey and white with bit of warmth of the breast – to an unusually gold-spangled ‘looker’.
The other activity going on was looking for and recording colour-flagged birds. One had a special story. NCE was there. John explained that yellow-flagged NCE was one of a number of Knot that flew off from staging grounds in Northern Norway (hey I didn’t know they staged up there!) in May 2008 straight into particularly inclement weather conditions. So bad was it that 4 colour ringed birds were subsequently seen in June in England and Holland. This strongly suggested they had turned back and settled for a non breeding summer in Europe. It seems likely that some would have persisted to Greenland and Northern Canada and many may have perished. NCE – didn’t perish. We were watching it. Did it make it that year to breed in Greenland or the Canadian Arctic? Did it turn back? We marvelled as we watched NCE and his colour ringed buddies like HHK! With renewed enthusiasm I scoured the flock for more flags to read and pass on the sightings. The migration of Shorebirds is one of nature’s amazing feats – and I have so much still to learn about bird migration.
HHK (you can just see a bit of its flag!) – One of NEC’s buddies. Shorebirds have amazing life stories. Virtually all of the Knots passing through and wintering in Britain are the Greenland and N Canadian form islandica. Even though the Taimyr (Siberia) breeding nominate form occurs in large numbers just across the North Sea, its occurrence in Britain seems exceptional rather than the norm.
This is the news John received on his first sighting/recording of yellow-flagged Knot ‘NEC’, a couple of years ago:
“NCE is particularly interesting as it is one out of a catch on 27 May when we marked 350 birds. Four of these were seen at end June in England (2) and Holland (2) and on was seen breeding in East Greenland in June. There was a very bad spring in the Canadian Arctic and possibly a non-breeding year there. The birds left Norway under poor weather conditions and would have met very bad conditions on the Canadian breeding grounds – and the 4 in June probably came straight back or never got out of Norway to the north. All the sightings so far from the 27 May have been of comparatively light birds when marked – and at the moment we are wondering if the heavier birds which might have penetrated further into the bad arctic conditions and are now dead – time will tell!”
Here’s the summary of the work going on in N Norway. Did you know that islandica Knot made such a dog-leg on their spring migration? – I didn’t!
Click through twice to see pdf report: