Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Redshank

(1) Original
(1) Original
(2)  Redshank
(2) Redshank
(3) Redshank
(3) Redshank
(4) Immature
(4) Immature
(5) Redshank
(5) Redshank
(6) The Redshank
(6) The Redshank
(7) The Redshank
(7) The Redshank
(8) Redshank
(8) Redshank
(9) Redshank
(9) Redshank
(10 Redshank
(10 Redshank

 

 

The Redshank
Today we have the “Sentinel” of the marches and shores.
As I walk around the shores of Bute, I see a vast amount of wading birds, but what has got to be my favourite is the “Redshank”.


A smart looking bird that has a brilliant red bill with a black tip to it, and bright red legs. The head and upper body are brown with a white belly, and a white rump that extends into a “V” well up its back. A white rear edge to its wings which stand out very well as they fly away.
Their flight is strong and powerful and direct with their wings appearing to be on the downward stroke as they call out. Their call is one of the finest that I have heard, a haunting sound that that is at its best on a misty morning as they see you approaching and take off. If they are caught unawares, then the call changes to one of hysteria as they try to get away quickly. They will not fly very far, but if you are walking towards them they will take off as you near them. This can go on for a while until they decide enough is enough and they will fly out to sea and come to rest at the point where you first disturbed them.
Each book on birds that I read describes them differently, so I will not confuse you with them. The best way is to walk along any of our shores and you will soon see them. They can be in flocks of up to 45 as at Kilchattan Bay, or feeding solitary along the shores, like the Craigmore area. As usual, high tide is the best time as they look for insects when you will not need binoculars. A rhythmical, even -paced walk with steady pecks is the typical and distinctive feeding action, and they will often be near or with other waders, like Ringed Plovers and Turnstones as they feed on the same things.
They are about 26-30cm (10-11in) and find it hard to conceal themselves due to their colourful legs and bill.
Years ago I noticed that as they put their long bill into the sands looking for food, they close their eyes, and I have also seen Blackbirds do the same. The reasons are unknown to me, but two come into mind. Eye protection, or concentration as they search for food, they may feel the vibrations of the insects that they are searching for. We do the same when we are trying to remember something, we close our eyes so as not to be distracted by anything around us, keeping our thoughts to the matter at hand, and it works (sometimes).
Other members of the “Shank” family, are the Spotted Redshank, which I have yet to see, and the Greenshank, which I have seen, but not as often as they are few and far between, and the name greenshank gives you the colour of its legs, making identification very difficult as they look like a great deal of other waders.

Norrie Mulholland


First published in the Buteman 19-03-2004


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