SWIMMING SPOTTED REDSHANKS
During many years it has struck me, how aquatic the Spotted Redshank
is compared to other shorebirds or even other Tringa species. All
shorebirds can and do swim, when they must, but Spotted Redshanks T.
erythropus seem to swim habitually.
I have tens of observations of swimming "Sooties" from the Delta-area of
the Netherlands, my area of origin, and for the years 63-65, of field-work.
They felt perfectly at home, floating as lightly in the water as
phalaropes. I have watched them upending as (very fast) dabbling ducks
several times, clearly as a means of foraging. And once I even watched a
couple executing short dives, and coming up with some kind of prey! This
was in one of the many brackish pools in the province of Zeeland.
Of course bathing in these birds can often also be a most vivacious
activity, involving short dives, but at that one occasion, back in 1964,
the birds were definitely not bathing, and kept up these diving bouts for
at least 10 minutes.
Since moving to northern Norway I have had occasion to watch Spotted
Redshanks also in the breeding areas in Finnmark, and also there they swim
much more readily and frequently than any other shorebird I know, with the
exception of phalaropes (and maybe Avocets). I have seen this behaviour
both in the brackish pools of the Valdak saltmarshes in Porsangen, and in
the tarns in the freshwater breeding marshes of the Finnmarksvidda. Even
alarming birds near the nest may alight in the middle of a tarn, swin
around for a bit, and resume their alarm flights.
In 1988 I visited India in the late autumn. Just outside Bharatpur, we
watched a open roadside pool, and my notes on the Spotted Redshank say:
"One flock of ca 20 birds fed by swimming and up-ending (like dabbling
ducks, but much more quickly and "nervously") for the entire period I
watched them. I saw also twice a short dive. I do not know what the birds
fed upon". So this behaviour appears to be characteristic for the Spotted
Redshank everywhere and all year round. It has been described in an early
paper by mr Lebret in Ardea many years ago, but seems to be often
Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
9037 Tromsø, Norway