Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #43

Chris Watson

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

It’s an exciting time of year for bird lovers in the southern hemisphere. Most of our local birds are either sitting on eggs or have recently hatched a brood of squawking youngsters. While resident birds are busy breeding there is one group of birds who have no interest in such activities; for now.

Migrant birds have started to arrive from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere and among them is our bird of the week, the Wood Sandpiper. At around 55g, it is astonishing that such a tiny frame can sustain all the requisite bits and pieces for sustaining life. Add to this that this delicate-looking creature has just flown here all the way from the Russian Far East and it boggles the mind.

The Wood Sandpiper has been shown to be capable of making this trip in just a few hops of up to 4,500km stopping for just a few days along the way to rest and feed. With few exceptions it will make this staggering round trip every year of its life and may live well beyond 15 years. That’s not bad on a diet of insect larvae and molluscs!

Over the summer you can marvel at these amazing birds at the Alice Springs Sewage Ponds where they spend their holiday season loafing with other migrant species. A few other migrants have been spotted lately including Common Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints, all of whom have completed a similar ultra-marathon flight to get here.

Lots of people have been emailing me their stories of nesting birds in the back yard. Have you got an interesting or unidentified bird nesting in a tree at your house? Send me your pictures and stories and that’ll be the topic for next week’s ditty.