Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Dunlin

(2) Dunlin Summer

(2) Dunlin Summer

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The Dunlin
While counting Moths and Butterflies between Ettrick Bay and the Straad this year, I came across a family of Dunlin consisting of Mum Dad and one offspring.
It was the first time that I have ever seen a family. I have counted many flocks with up to 40 in my day, but this was great, as they were in no hurry to get away. I did not know if the young one could fly, but it looked as though it had all its flight feathers, so I had to proceed slowly, taking images all the time. They did not seem to mind me at all, but I knew that if I went too close all I would get is a photo of the shore, so, I stayed put where I was and enjoyed their company for a short while , then they wandered off.


They are small waders 16-19cm (6-8ins) with a strong and powerful direct flight that breed in small numbers on our inland moors, but in winter it is the most abundant and widespread of our shore waders.
It has a black; long and thin bill that is decurved at tip, and their legs are black also
It is a dumpy little bird that generally adopts a hunched-up attitude and also feeds very busily.
In winter the upperparts are grey with paler feather margins, while the underparts are white, with grey streaking on the breast.
In the summer (as shown) it is chestnut on and black on the crown and back, while the breast is streaked and the belly boasts a bold black patch. The latter is quite distinctive. An interesting article from one of my books, is that if you are on a sandy beach and you see a small wader that you can’t identify, it is probably a Dunlin? Well make what you want of that, then again they could be right, but as there are others that fit the bill (no pun intended) I reserve judgement.
Breakfast, lunch and evening meal consists of Molluscs (Limpets, periwinkles) and Crustaceans (Sand-hoppers, small crabs, shrimps etc.), and anything else that takes their fancy, as in humans and birds ‘hunger makes good kitchen’.
Well this family returned to the same place that they had left from, as I had moved on, but was still keeping my eye on them with my binoculars, and also a great deal of other waders were in the same area, but too far away for photography, but is was most enjoyable just sitting there with having all the time in the world to watch them.
In the winter good size flocks of these birds arrive here and give fantastic flying displays, with bucking and weaving in unison, that alighting once more on the sands for a quick bite, then up in the air again for their Arial displays.

They are not alone in having displays, as others seem to say ‘Sauce for the goose is sauce for the Gander’, and so take to the skies to show off their skills as well.

Norrie Mulholland


First published in the Buteman  30-12-2011

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