Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 26, 2014


Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).  Ross Gardner 2012.

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia). Ross Gardner 2012.

A mild autumn so far indeed, but the coastal bird flocks build nevertheless, towards their winter hoards.  It is a time of year that will tweak the ornithologist in many, even if only to enjoy the thrilling sights and sounds of shorebirds in their thousands jostling around the sheltered coastlines and estuaries all around the country, regardless of having any need to know all their names.

The Essex shore of the Thames estuary, like so many others, boasts many a productive birdwatching location, even alongside the seafront promenades and industry that prevails along much of it.  Basically, there is a whole lot intertidal mud with whole a lot of creatures living within it for birds to eat.  It attracts many thousands of wading birds and wildfowl, including, or course one or two of our less well-known species.

Such a bird, I would say, is the Greenshank.  I encountered a flock of 15 or so a few days ago, roosting at high tide on a lagoon at the Essex Wildlife Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve.  These are wading birds with a fairly small breeding population of around a thousand pairs that nest on the wild moorlands of Northern Scotland and winter numbers that are somewhat smaller.  On their autumn passage however, they occur in rather larger quantities when more than 4000 birds will move through en route between Scandinavian breeding territories and African summer quarters.  The west of the country will tend to see the birds in the winter, while most (although certainly not all) of the autumn migrants fall on the east coast.

It is a close relative of the Redshank, but as a bird that often earns itself the superlative of elegance, it will often stand out from the huddle of waders standing out on some muddy pool, paler and rather more slightly built than their stockier and far more numerous cousin.  Well worth keeping an eye out for.



  1. Greenshanks are aplenty right now in the Philippines! But yours looks different from ours. It’s one of the easier to identify ones compared to the stints and sandpipers 🙂

    • Until reading you comment and looking at the world distribution of Greenshank, I hadn’t realised quite how widespread they are, breeding right the way across Europe and Asia. I see also that yours are winter visitors from the North, similar to ours. I wonder what else I would find familiar if I ever went birding in the Philippines?

      • Well, the ones you’ll most likely see in almost any wetland will probably be Egrets and Terns. Redshanks are pretty common too.

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