20/09/2010
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Temminck's Stint

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This diminutive wader is an excellent find anywhere in the country, usually only seen on passage, though some birds have bred in Scotland. Photo: Stuart Elsom (www.stuartelsom.co.uk)
This diminutive wader is an excellent find anywhere in the country, usually only seen on passage, though some birds have bred in Scotland. Photo: Stuart Elsom (www.stuartelsom.co.uk)

Easily overlooked, this small wader can turn up on almost any coastal or inland marsh, especially in spring. It is, however, often a tricky addition to any year list, as its appearance in any one place is never guaranteed.

Its breeding range extends from Scotland eastwards through Scandinavia and Siberia to far eastern Russia. It winters from the Mediterranean south to African countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, and eastwards across southern Asia as far as Japan. It occurs as a vagrant in North America. Britain lies at the western edge of its migration route and Scotland is just within its breeding range.

Migration in both spring and autumn takes place on a broad front, with birds migrating inland, often being seen on inland waters on their route north. Both passages are rapid, with autumn movements beginning in July and mostly complete by the end of September. Winter quarters are vacated in March and April, and most birds are back at their European breeding grounds by late May.

The species is most frequent in England, where it is found mainly in coastal counties from Norfolk to Hampshire. Individual birds are normally seen, or maybe a couple, but occasional larger parties have been logged in Norfolk in May. Temminck’s Stint is rare but annual in Scotland. In some years there may be just one seen, while in others a dozen or so might be reported, with most in the second half of May. It is a rare visitor to Wales in spring and autumn, while Irish records are extremely rare and more usual in autumn.

Peak spring passage is between the end of April and mid-June, with most in the first three weeks of May. Autumn passage is mainly in August and September. In recent decades there has been an average of about 100 records per year, with about 70 of these in spring.

Temminck’s Stint first bred in Scotland in 1934, though unsuccessfully, and further attempts in the 1930s and 1960s also failed. Displaying birds were seen at several sites in 1969 and breeding was confirmed in 1971. In the late 1970s there were 10 pairs, but numbers have since declined and it was last proved to breed in 1993, although displaying birds have been seen since and there was a strong likelihood of breeding in 2007.

The mating strategy of Temminck’s Stint is unusual, as the female will mate with a first male who incubates the clutch, leaving her free to mate with a second male; she then incubates those eggs herself. The first male will also mate again; this female will lay a clutch and incubate it, leaving the male to incubate the eggs from the first female.

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How to find

Temminck’s Stints tend to avoid coastal shorelines, but will occur on mudflats or freshwater and brackish marshes along the coast. They are also seen on inland waters, including gravel pits, floodlands and sewage farms.

The best chance inland is to stake out any site that attracts spring waders. Regular watching in mid-May is most likely to bring results, and while some birds may stay for days, others will pass through quickly. The species tends to feed in soft mud, often close to vegetation, and can appear almost mouse-like in its movements.

Where to see

There are few sites where Temminck’s Stint appears annually; those listed below are some of the more regular locations.

England

  • Lancashire: Martin Mere WWT (SD 427143)
  • Cleveland: Saltholme RSPB (NZ 506231)
  • East Yorkshire: North Cave Wetlands (SE 886328)
  • Norfolk: Cley Marshes (TG 053440) and Titchwell Marsh RSPB (TF 750438)
  • Suffolk: Minsmere RSPB (TM 473672)
  • Essex: Vange Marshes RSPB (TQ 731871)
  • West Sussex: Pagham Harbour/ Sidlesham Ferry (SZ 856963)
  • Kent: Grove Ferry NNR (TR 237631)
  • Hampshire: Farlington Marshes NR (SU 679044)

Scotland

  • Aberdeenshire: Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (NK 055577)
  • Lothian: Musselburgh Lagoons (NT 359734)

Wales

  • Conwy: Conwy RSPB (SH 797773)
  • Gwent: Newport Wetlands (ST 334834)