Winter waders

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On coast and estuary in winter, dunlin are our commonest wader. Small with medium-length bill, they often form huge flocks of many hundreds. When disturbed they take off and perform a captivating aerial display.

Knot, grey and stockily built, are almost as common. Normally feeding on mudflats they follow the edge of the tide as the water comes in.

Widespread along muddy shorelines, grey plover is bulkier, a speckled grey and has black armpits in flight.

Curlew are large brown waders with long down-curved bills. As well as on estuaries they also feed in damp grassy fields, alongside black-tailed godwit.

Turnstones are a smallish energetic black-and-white wader usually seen among tidal debris. They are quite tame, flying up at the last minute and then settling down a few yards away.

Sanderling can also be seen scurrying along the shore, and are unmistakable being almost all white.

A few purple sandpiper feed among rocky seaweed at the tidal edge: a regular site in Essex is Holland Haven.

Flocks of golden plover, speckled greenish yellow with white underwing, and lapwing assemble on coastal fields.


Photo © Alan Williams