Way, way back..., long before Crick and Watson's leap forward began undermine the foundations of the BSC's concrete clarity, before digital photography condemned beloved note books (and, at times, careful observation?) to the dust bin. Way back when your brass 'n' glass monster wouldn't have known what to do with a screw-thread and 'a quality tripod' sounded more like a barrow boy's sales pitch rather than reference to essential birding kit... everything seemed so much easier.
Any potentially exciting wader you came across in the UK, were it a Semi(ish)P or a wide-of-the-mark Western was almost certain to be just a Dunlin. Albeit a 'funny' one. If I'd had 10 bob for every time I heard "I think it's just a funny Dunlin" when I was a kid, I'd have been travelling the country by taxi rather than hitching. But how often have you heard the expression "It's just a funny Stilt"? Not often? Well let's face it, when it comes to the Hard to Identify League, Black-winged Stilt is always going to be propping up the table along with the likes of Wrybill and Northern Lapwing, isn't it?
Or is it?
All the images I've seen of Pied and Black-necked from within their normal breeding ranges show birds that vary amazingly little in appearance. It's almost as if a single representative of the respective taxa has been given exclusive rights to publication. Are photographers so intent on getting (and posting) shots of the Mr/Miss Universe of the stilt world, or is it only Black-winged that's so incredibly variable? When I go down to my local lagoon I'm hard pressed to find two birds that look remotely alike.
|A great start to the day.|
|At whichever angle they were viewed, the primaries of FS looked shorter. Here the 'scissors' blades are less lengthy and the points resultingly closer together.|
|The strengthening afternoon wind is parting the 'mane' into two lines with one side visible in this image. The feathers are quite long but also wispy at the base. More to come in a moment.|
If the eight hours I spent with the bird already seemed more than enough, it wasn't. I must be a glutton for punishment because I went back a week later and spent another 10 hours with it. I needed to be absolutely sure about this bird, it seemed an educational opportunity. Interestingly, I felt the 'mane' had grown a little in the eight days between visits. Incidentally, the two BWS had left and this was the only Stilt present, though the lagoon was fast filling up with Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Grey-tailed Tattler.
|I think this shows a fairly obvious area of raised feathers, but presumably far less obvious than that of Pied.|
|As with images of the saddle, the wings looked glossier in life than in these images.|