Sunday, 7 April 2013

Wits and Shanks

Do you know your wits from your shanks or, more importantly, do you know your wits from your wits and your shanks from your shanks? Well, Titchwell is an ideal place to find out as you can get such close views. Let's start with the wits.

The easiest way to tell Bar-tailed Godwits from Black-tailed is that Bar-tailed do not have a wing bar, but this is only of any use when they are in flight. The rest of the criteria are all rather subjective, but collectively should lead you to the right conclusion. The bill is very slightly up-turned and the legs are shorter than Black-tailed, especially the part of the leg between the knee and the body (tibia). In winter plumage they tend to be greyer and more scaly on the back than Black-tailed.

Black-tailed Godwits, on the other hand, have a wing stripe, a white rump and a black and white tail, longer legs (especially the tibia) and a straight bill. In winter plumage they tend be be of a warmer more uniform colouration, and this one is just starting to moult into it's summer plumage.

As for the shanks, the Redshank is brown with red shanks or legs, hence the name, and a relatively short red bill. On the coast it is present all the year round.

Its cousin is the rather more stunning Spotted Redshank, which is mainly a spring and autumn migrant, although one or two usually overwinter at Titchwell each year. In winter plumage they are much greyer with a much longer bill and a distinct eye-stripe.

In summer, they moult into a stunning black plumage with white spots. This one is in a transitional plumage.

For better reproduction of my photos, see my photo gallery at


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