Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Good Year For The Lemmings?

I've just been reading about Little Stints on Wikipedia. Apparently the breeding success of this species, along with Curlew Sandpipers, depends heavily upon the breeding success of lemmings. Interesting, I thought, and my mind was immediately filled with the bizarre image of a Little Stint trying to swallow one of these suicidal rodents, in much the same way as a baby owl would tackle a vole.

As I continued to read I quickly realised that the waders themselves don't actually feed upon the lemmings. No, that would be silly, though I've seen sillier stuff than that on Wikipedia - let me tell you! Instead, the lemmings form part of the diet of larger birds, such as skuas and Snowy Owls. When lemming numbers drop, these birds turn to the smaller waders to supply them with their lunch. Good news for skuas and owls, less so for Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers!

Anyway, there have been quiet a few reports of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper across the country in the past few weeks, so perhaps the lemmings are doing quite well this year?

There is a point to all this persiflage [great word - look it up] and before you lose interest, perhaps I'd better get to it. I've just come back from Upton Warren you see, where a Little Stint turned up on Saturday afternoon. My previous experience with this bird has been limited to three very distant sightings at Upper Bittell Reservoir, including one in July this year and I have always been keen to see one up close and personal.

Today provided that opportunity and it was well worth the trip.

So that's what they look like!

It was great to finally get a proper look at this bird, definitely one of the highlights of the year. I could have stayed there all day watching it to be honest, but left it to its own devices after an hour or so.

Bird Forum member Dean Powell was also there this morning. It was good to meet you Dean. Maybe I will catch up with you on the Staffordshire moorlands next year?

Finally, on the way home I passed two Eddie Stobart trucks. The first one was past me before I realised it, but I clocked the name of the second one. I don't think I've seen Stephanie before, but I'll need to check before I declare her as a lifer.

Finally, a detour on the way home saw me stop off near Hopwood to see the resident Little Owl. He or she was perched on his or her favourite branch, but was flushed by a couple of horses and their riders a minute later.

The only other piece of news this weekend was a Green-Veined White butterfly in the garden yesterday.

My next report will almost certainly be upon my return from Devon a week tomorrow. Until then, happy birding!

1 comment:

Fredrik Broms said...


While writing a more or less identical blog post as yours on Arctic waders and lemmings, I did some searching and found your blog - interesting!

Maybe there is a connection - the same thing seems to happen again now in 2011 which has been an exceptionally good year for lemmings:

All the best, Fredrik