Tag Archives: Red-necked Stint

Another Red-necked Stint – in Iceland!

By Yoav Perlman

Just a few weeks ago, before we all became obsessed with fancy Dunnocks, a 1cy Red-necked Stint was amazingly discovered in Norway, the first live individual identified in Europe. I am really glad that this individual sparked interest and attention in the birding community, that resulted in the next individual found, this time in Iceland. Somewhat similar story to the Norwegian find:

On October 13th one of Iceland’s top birders Gunnar Þór (Thor) Hallgrímsson went birding on his way back home at Bakkatjorn on the outskirts of Reykjavík. He spotted an interesting peep that attracted his attention. Gunnar had only bins with him, and no camera, so his views weren’t great. Based on what he expected for the time and place he identified it as the ‘default’ for this part of Europe in autumn – Semipalmated Sandpiper, as it clearly wasn’t a Little Stint nor a Western Sand. Gunnar headed back home, grabbed his camera and focused on getting some shots of the bird. He promptly alerted several local birders and sent this back-of-camera photo:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

All birders who saw the first image felt something was not right for semi-p. Yann Kolbeinson from Birding Iceland immediately thought the bird could in fact be a Red-necked Stint. An initial identification discussion among the small group of local birders began. Yann quickly replied to Gunnar by text: “Please tell me you can see webs between its toes…”. Gunnar’s heart skipped a heartbeat. A few minutes later Gunnar sent through the next photo:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

Obviously Yann’s jaw hit the floor. Luckily Yann had the images of the Norwegian Red-necked Stint still fresh in his mind, so he knew what to look for: the overall grey and plain appearance, small bill, long rear and round body, short legs – these features clicked. The Icelandic birders were somewhat worried about the dark ear coverts and seemingly darker markings on wing coverts, so back-of-camera images were sent to Killian Mullarney for his opinion. Killian replied quickly, and supported Red-necked Stint, but wanted to check the original images rather than back-of-camera to finalize the identification. Soon the original images were circulated and everyone agreed on the identification. Within a couple of hours after discovery, it was identified as Iceland’s first Red-necked Stint. Amazing!

Over the next few days it was seen by most Icelandic birders, including Yann who drove down from northern Iceland where he lives. As of today (18/10/16) it is still present. Here are some more photos of it. In my previous post I provided the full details for separation from Semi-p and Little Stint. Here I will just highlight the main features.

Note general structure. Long rear – like Norwegian bird primary tips not projecting beyond tail. Plump body and short legs:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Þór Hallgrímsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Þór Hallgrímsson.

Very grey and plain unmoulted coverts and lower scapulars. Coverts with hardly any pattern on them; scapulars with limited dark shaft streaks and limited dark tips:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Sigmundur Ásgeirsson

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrimsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrimsson.

Generally unmarked mantle pattern with limited braces:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 13 October 2016. Photo by Gunnar Thor Hallgrímsson.

Tiny bill:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 14 October 2016. Photo by Yann Kolbeinsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 14 October 2016. Photo by Yann Kolbeinsson.

Nice grey smudge on breast sides with indistinct streaking:

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 14 October 2016. Photo by Yann Kolbeinsson.

Red-necked Stint 1cy, Bakkatjorn, Reykjavík, Iceland, 14 October 2016. Photo by Yann Kolbeinsson.

Originally I had a quick look and speculated that the icelandic bird might be the same individual as the Norwegian bird. However, Killian Mullarney did a much more thorough job than me, and they clearly are different individuals, based on differences in state of moult of scapulars and mantle feathers, and position of primary tips comapred to tail. Many thnaks to Killian for allowing me to use his annotated comparisons between the two birds:

Annotated comparison of Red-necked Stints from Norway (top, photo by Trond Ove Stakkeland) and Iceland (bottom, photo by Yann Kolbeinson). Created by Killian Mullarney.

Annotated comparison of Red-necked Stints from Norway (top, photo by Trond Ove Stakkeland) and Iceland (bottom, photo by Yann Kolbeinson). Created by Killian Mullarney.

Annotated comparison of Red-necked Stints from Norway (top, photo by Trond Ove Stakkeland) and Iceland (bottom, photo by Yann Kolbeinson). Created by Killian Mullarney.

Annotated comparison of Red-necked Stints from Norway (top, photo by Trond Ove Stakkeland) and Iceland (bottom, photo by Yann Kolbeinson). Created by Killian Mullarney.

Many thanks to Gunnar, Yann, Sigmundur and Killian for the information and photos, and congratulations for such an excellent find and identification process. Surely there are more lurking somewhere in Europe. Keep your eyes open boys and girls – now you know what to look for.

Juvenile Red-necked Stint in Norway!

By Yoav Perlman

On September 23rd, Sigmar Lode, a Norwegian birder, was on his favourite patch at Nærland, Rogaland, in southwestern Norway. He had American peeps on his mind, especially after the decent arrival in Ireland and UK in preceding weeks. Just before leaving, he spotted a small 1cy peep, that structurally was clearly not a Little Stint. Sigmar had two Semipalmated Sandpipers at the same site 4 years ago, so naturally that was his first thought. He knew he needed photos, especially of the webbing between the toes. He fired off some OK shots, but they did not show any webbing! Then he got some more shots of the bird, and thought he saw something like webbing between the toes . Sigmar was happy – that are only few Norwegian records of Semipalmated Sandpiper. He uploaded his images on Facebook and his initial ID was generally accepted.

A few days later, sharp-eyed Tor Olsen, Oddvar Heggøy, Bjørn Olav Tveit and Geir Kristensen noticed further photographs of the bird by Trond Ove Stakkeland that emerged online – these excellent sharp photos shown here courtesy of Trond:

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

NO WEBBING!

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

[First a quick hats-off to Tor – he is a member of the Norwegian Rarities Committee (NSKF). He has had a great autumn so far – he found an (apparent) Alder Flycatcher just over a week ago – the bird was trapped, and DNA samples will hopefully confirm the ID]

Back to the stint: Tor and his peers Oddvar Heggøy, Bjørn Olav Tveit, Kjell Mjølsnes, Simon Rix, Egil Ween and Geir Kristensen reviewed the new images and became certain this is not a Semipalmated Sandpiper, but rather a juvenile Red-necked Stint! It was a real team effort that led to this outstanding ID. Also Harry Hussey from Ireland was involved in the ID process. When Harry sent the photos to me I had no access to literature but my jaw dropped instantly. I will use Martin’s language – BOOM! Or to be more precise FLIPPIN’ MEGA BOOM!

Red-necked Stint is another rare bird in Norway, with four previous accepted records, typically of adults in June – July. But a record of a non-adult is almost unprecedented in the WP – the only other record involves a juvenile Red-necked Stint found dead on Fair Isle in August 1994.  So this is possibly the first European record of a living juvenile! Finding a WP young Red-necked Stint in the field remained the Holy Grail of bird identification for many years. I know it’s easy in retrospect, but looking at these photos – it really is possible to ID them in the field. This record needs to be accepted first by the Norwegian rarities committee, but my vote would be YES!

There are two main confusion species – Little Stint and Semipalmated Sandpiper. A good review of the identification of juvenile peeps was written by the late Russell Slack in 2006 – here on Birdguides. Identification of this bird as Red-necked Stint involved both a ‘holistic’ view of structure and jizz, and meticulous scrutiny of feather tracts. I will try to summarise the main features that caught the Norwegian team’s eyes:

General structure

Compared to Little Stint, this bird in shorter-legged, and longer reared. In some literature it is mentioned that wings always projects beyond tail tip, but there is much variation in this feature and the short projection of the primary tips beyond the tail is alright for Red-necked Stint. Red-necked Stint is also longer-reared than Semipalmated Sandpiper. Semipalmated has longer legs than flat-bottomed Red-necked, and has a shorter wing projection beyond tail, giving a less long-reared impression. Red-necked has a unique combination of a long rear and a rather full chest.

Bill structure

This bird has a short bill, thicker than Little Stint but thinner and not as blunt-tipped as Semipalmated. It must be noted that all peeps show huge variation in bill length and structure, very much related to sexual and age-related variation.

Check these longs legs and long, thin bill of a typical juvenile Little Stint:

Juvenile Little Stint, Ashdod, Israel, September 2010. Photo by Yoav Perlman

Webbing between toes

Practically none! Again, some Semi-p’s show less developed webs, but the Norwegian bird had less webbing than any Semi-p can show. Many thanks to Steve Duffield for this excellent semi-p shot below – he has lots more on his website. Note here the toe webbing and powerful, blunt-tipped bill:

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gualan, South Uist,Outer Hebrides. Photo by Steve Duffield.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gualan, South Uist,Outer Hebrides, August 2016. Photo by Steve Duffield.

Moult

This bird has already replaced some scapulars and mantle feathers to 1st-winter plumage (which is essentially similar to adult winter plumage). This is typical for 1cy Red-necked Stint, but would be very unusual for Semipalmated – semi-p’s rarely start moulting (or molting…) before mid October. Some Little Stints already moult in September, but their moult would be on average less developed, and their replaced winter-plumaged feathers are not as pale grey and plain as shown by the Norwegian bird, but have more prominent shaft streaks.

General plumage patterns

Compared to Little Stint, the Norwegian bird has much less distinct saddle V’s, and the fact that it has less black on the scapulars and coverts creates a much less patterned impression.Also the juvenile coverts are very pale and uniform, which is spot-on for Red-necked Stint. The beautiful grey smudge across the breast-sides and into the breast, with indistinct streaking, is also typical for Red-necked Stint. Little Stint has fine, normally warm toned streaks on the breast sides. Semi-p has also more defined streaking on the breast.

The Norwegian bird shows a nice brown cap, warmer toned than normal Semi-p’s. However, I found much variation in this feature checking online images, so I am not sure whether this is an important feature. Semipalmated normally shows dark and well-defined ear coverts, but see the South Uist bird above… I also don’t like the split supercilium stuff- really variable and depends on position of the bird. IMO very difficult to interpret from photos.

Scapulars pattern

Semi-p is known for its anchor-shaped dark tips to juvenile lower scapulars. Little Stint has typically very full, dark scapulars (see in the photo above). The Norwegian bird showed a typical pattern for Red-necked Stint:  thin dark shaft streaks and limited V-shaped dark tips, resembling Semi-p but generally the scapulars are paler and more uniform.

Call

I don’t know if anyone heard or sound-recorded the Norwegian bird, but it should be the best way to identify peeps. Red-necked Stint has a call very different from Little Stint – to my ears lower pitched and softer, somewhat recalling Dunlin. Listen here and here. Little Stint has a higher-pitched and clearer flight call. Semipalmated Sandpiper has funny, drawn-out and soft calls.

So to conclude:

The brilliant ID skills of the Norwegian team allowed this breakthrough in WP Birding Frontiers! They demonstrated that with good views and understanding of the important structural and plumage features, it is possible to identify non-adult-summer Red-necked Stints in the WP. Hopefully their confidence will motivate more keen birders to find further juveniles. Now is the time!