Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)



Spotted Redshank © Ray Scally

Spotted Redshank © Ray Scally

Spotted Redshank is chiefly a passage migrant in the county, mainly in autumn on their way from breeding areas in northern Europe to wintering quarters in west Africa. Birds on spring passage and in winter have become more frequent in the last thirty years. Those recorded during this winter Atlas were typical, in numbers and distribution, of recent years: winter birds occur exclusively in the tidal Dee or Mersey or adjacent sites. Most birds were seen singly, but two or three birds were together in the West Kirby and Hoylake tetrads (SJ28D and SJ28E) in 2004/ 05 and Inner Marsh Farm (SJ37B) had peak counts of four birds in the first two winters, with five in 2006/ 07. Possibly the same birds were at Boathouse Flash (SJ27U) in 2004/ 05. It is difficult to avoid double-counting, but there could have been up to eight birds on the Dee in 2004/ 05, and one on the Mersey (one seen at Pickering’s Pasture (SJ48W) on 15 December 2004 and possibly the same, or another, on the Ince Banks saltmarsh (SJ47U) on 16 January 2005). Groups of Spotted Redshanks can be spectacular to see as they feed together in deep water, even swimming on occasion, to catch insects, small crustaceans, molluscs, worms, fish, and amphibians.

Apparently the first known Spotted Redshank in winter within the current county boundaries was one at Hilbre in hard frost on 4 January 1941 (Hardy 1941). By 1962 it was ‘an almost regular winter visitor to the estuaries’ and Bell knew of records on the Dee and Mersey in every month except June, with wintering birds from November to February reported in very small numbers in most years since about 1954 (Bell 1962). Since then the annual county bird reports show some large autumn flocks, peaking at 110 in early October 1974 and 127 on 22 September 1978, but since then the autumn numbers have decreased, with maximum autumn counts through the subsequent decades of 7-47 in the 1980s, 6-14 in the 1990s, and 6-19 since 2000.

In winter, the largest count on record was of 25 on Burton Marsh in December 1979, following large numbers present that autumn, but otherwise the winter counts in the 1970s and 1980s ranged from one to nine. Subsequently the span has been from two to 15. All the birds have been on the Dee or Mersey or nearby sites. Although Spotted Redshanks had been recorded in the 1930s wintering at Altrincham Sewage Farm (now Greater Manchester) before it was modernised, it appears that there has never been an ‘inland’ record in the present recording area during the winter period.

The numbers in the winter months, especially at Inner Marsh Farm (SJ37B), the most regularly used site, usually peak in February, perhaps suggesting an early return from birds wintering elsewhere. The spring migration of Spotted Redshanks in central Europe has become significantly earlier during the period 1966-2002, especially following warmer winters (Anthes 2004).

Perhaps 1-2% of the total population winters in Europe, mostly in Mediterranean countries, with an estimate of 138 birds in the UK, 1994-99 (Birdlife International 2004). These are the most northerly of all wintering Spotted Redshanks, and would be expected to be sensitive to climate change.

Gifted to Peter F. Twist