Wednesday 21 September 2016

American Wigeon Plus a Tricky Stint

I missed out on seeing the American Wigeon at Cossington Meadows on my first visit, as it did a bunk for the full day. Luckily it was still there when I returned at the weekend. I had to drop off family members in Leicester city centre, so it was only a short drive to Cossington. The weather had been better on my first visit, but despite the dull light I soon picked it up. Its grey head with the dark flash was very easy to pick out amongst the Eurasian Wigeon.

Eclipse Drake American Wigeon, Cossington Meadows

After I had had my fill at Cossington I headed south to Shawell. The gull numbers had dropped from the peak earlier in the month. There were still quite a few colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls to look at plus a tricky juvenile gull that was probably a LBBG, but not a typical one.

Steve Nichols arrived in the afternoon and after a while something disturbed the assembled gulls and Lapwings. Whilst I was searching for the cause of their upset I noticed four small waders coming in from our left. We could see that one was a Ruff and another was a Ringed Plover. They headed to the shore and I kept my eye on the two unidentified waders. I quickly aimed my scope at them and gave directions to Steve. One was an obvious Dunlin and the other was significantly smaller and it was plain grey with a distinct breast band (pec band). Its legs were hidden, as it was crouching down the way waders do when a bird of prey is nearby. I noticed a slight pale supercilium in front of the eye and some faint dark marks on the feather centres of its upperparts. It was obviously a stint and Steve and I thought it was most likely a Temminck's Stint due to its plain grey upperparts and its full breast band. In less than a minute the four waders panicked and flew off very fast northwards.

Thinking about it later that evening I was concerned that the grey lacked any brown hues. I started to research whether a Little Stint could have a full breast band and discovered that some do. Very few photos show this feature on Little Stint, so I would say it is quite rare. It was an adult and adult Little Stints are not that common in Britain during autumn, but neither are Temminck's Stints. It would have helped if we could have seen the colour of its legs, but the cold grey colouration points more towards Little Stint and the fact that some can have a full breast band made us change our minds and conclude that it was actually a Little Stint. The paper by Peter Grant Identification of stints and peeps says that Little Stint can have a full breast band, but that the other similar waders don't share this feature apart from Temminck's Stint. For Temminck's it states plain grey-brown upperparts and this bird lacked any hint of brown, so I believe we ended up coming to the correct identification - it was a Little Stint.

It would have been better if it had stayed around, but that's birding!

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