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Inspiring and Supporting Photographers of Australian Birds

Common Greenshank

Common Greenshank (Image ID 43983)
Photographed byMichael Hamel-Green on Fri 4th Dec, 2020 and uploaded on Tue 22nd Dec, 2020 .
Resolution1400x871
Viewed200
ID43983
CommentSo what amongst all the shorebird lookalikes was this one? New to shorebird nuances, I resorted to my bird guides. Noticing the slightly upturned beak, I started by Godwitting. But Godwit plumage did not quite match. So I poked around with the Sandpipers, tangled myself in the Red Knots, nosed through the Snipes, and picked my way carefully amongst the Stilts and Avocets. All to no avail. I became momentarily excited by the possibility of having seen an uncommon vagrant, such as the Hudsonian Godwit or the Nordmann’s Greenshank. The upward tilting beak was there but there were problems with the legs and superciliums. And then suddenly, turning the pages, I saw the right one staring out at me. It was a Common Greenshank. After thinking I had seen an unusual or uncommon species, I felt a little let down (especially since the only uncommon bird I have ever seen in the wild was a Princess Parrot, and that, as it transpired, was an aviary escapee and didn’t really count). But the more I read about the Common Greenshank, the more I realized I should not feel let down at all. Here was a relatively small creature just 30 to 35 cm long and weighing 290gm who, it seems, had just flown some 13,000 kilometres from Siberia to the Jawbone Reserve a few kilometres from Melbourne’s city centre. It would have left its breeding ground around August and arrived here a month or two ago, a diminutive bundle of feathers and bone that had somehow fought its way through all the extremes that climate change and human threats could throw at it along the way, including the ocean plastic pollution that is now killing some 20% or more of seabirds, the destruction of migratory bird “pit-stop” wetlands along the way, the bird catchers who hunt them in great numbers, especially in the Chinese and Korean regions, and the constant erosion of their favoured wetland destinations (just a few hundred metres from where this photo was taken a new housing development was literally built right next to the wetland without any buffering margin at all). Such a small bird but with the skills, stamina and resilience to travel across the whole planet in a matter of months, and do this every year as their long evolved instincts require. My “Common” Greenshank is most definitely a source of extraordinary inspiration. In the case of a similar species that makes the astonishing journey between Siberia to Australia, writer Andrew Darby offers an incredibly moving account of an individual Grey Plover on its actual journey between Australia and its breeding island in the Arctic (“Flight Lines”, Allen & Unwin, NSW, 2020) and what it meant for the author personally. The Greenshank may still be common now but its days may yet be numbered by the accelerating destruction of its wetland habitat, climate change and pollution. Australian poet, A.D.Hope, was thinking of the eventual death of a migratory bird during an annual migration but his haunting lines may yet be an epitaph for all these migratory birds:
“For every bird there is this last migration;/Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;/With a warm passage to the summer station/Love pricks the course in lights across the chart./….A vanishing speck in those inane dominions, /Single and frail, uncertain of her place,/…Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space./…The invisible thread is broken as she flies; /Suddenly, without warning, without reason,/The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies./…And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,/And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,/And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,/Receives the tiny burden of her death” (“The Death of a Bird”).
EquipmentNikon Z7 with Nikon 300mm PF f/4 telephoto, TC1.7
Nikon Z7, Nikon 300mm PF, TC1.7
500mm
ISO 2000
1/3200th f13
LocationJawbone Reserve, Williamstown, Victoria
Keywordsadult, non-breeding plumage/features
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