A Notion for Redshank

A redshank, standing up to his red shanks in the Solway.
A redshank, standing up to his red shanks in the Solway.

For someone who was born and raised within sight of the Solway Firth, I am supremely ignorant on the subject of wading birds. Each year, hundreds of bird watchers come to the Solway to see the waders, and each year I manage to let the entire spectacle pass me by. I attempt to mask my ignorance by describing everything from grey plovers to turnstones as “those little guys”, and while it gives me pleasure to see them turn and twist in the sunlight, they are largely too small and fiddly to really get my imagination firing. It is only recently that I have started to get interested in wading birds – specifically those which are related to moorland.

Although curlews and snipe are more than familiar breeding birds on the Chayne, sandpipers, lapwings and oystercatchers also have something of a stronghold further down the glen. I’m keen to tempt them up the hill in the next few years to add to the mix of birdlife on the farm, but it hasn’t escaped my notice that even this is not the full complement of wading birds.

Until my trip to Norfolk at the end of January, I was only dimly aware what a redshank was. They breed in admirable numbers on the freshwater marshes where I was shooting geese, and it occurred to me that the Chayne should really be able to support a redshank or two. Just as with black grouse, habitat work to promote one species inevitably has knock-on effects which benefit others, and I’d like to include redshank as one of my target species on the Chayne.

From my first stirrings of interest, I see that redshank like to have access to standing water which lies in the vicinity of tussocky grass. Tussocky grass I have in abundance, but there is little in the way of standing water. If I can find a way of flooding some of the low fields, I might be able to plan some sort of mini-redshank project alongside everything else I have going on. As soon as there is standing water, I can look forward to lapwings, oystercatchers and (a local speciality) breeding shelduck. The redshank side of things needs some more research, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done.

These are still early days, but it would be nice to be able to plan for the future and include redshank as an objective. After just a few minutes watching them on the shoreline down by the Solway coast yesterday, I must say that there is something decidedly appealing about those jerky little creatures. It made me laugh to see them bow and bob, and there’s no doubt that the Chayne would be all the cheerier for a breeding pair or two.

Plenty more to come on the subject of redshank and upland waders.


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