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Little Stint banded in Sweden, that I photographed in South Carolina


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offshorebirder

I am sorry to have been away from Safaritalk recently - more days in the field than not for the past three weeks.  This is Christmas Bird Count season in the Americas...

 

Any Swedes we have on Safaritalk - such as @Sverker- should find this story of interest.

 

On the morning of December 19, during the McClellanville Christmas Bird Count, I was tallying birds in a managed ricefield impoundment in the Santee Delta area.  In the muddy margins of the impoundment, I came across an unusual looking sandpiper loosely associating with a handful of Least Sandpipers.  I knew it was not a Least or Semipalmated Sandpiper and it seemed a bit off for a Western Sandpiper - but I figured maybe it was a young-of-the-year Western since they have shorter' less decurved bills and may not be in adult winter plumage in mid-December.  When I noticed it had a tiny metal bird band on its right leg, I knew I had to do my best to get photos to identify the band numbers.  This is incredibly difficult with such a small band under field conditions.  So I stalked it with care and as much fieldcraft as possible.  I had the good fortune to get a series of good photos from different angles.  
 

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Arriving at home and looking at the photos on my computer, I was convinced by plumage and bill details that the bird was a Little Stint (Calidris minuta) - an Old World shorebird that has never been recorded before in South Carolina!   As I zoomed in on several photos of the metal bird band, it became clear that it contained 3 rows of stamped characters.  This seemed wrong for a North American bird band and my British friend and Master Bird Bander Dr. Chris Snook confirmed this - he said it looked to be a European band.  

 

Chris helped me piece together the sequence of characters by looking at photos at high magnification.  The top row was a mix of numbers and letters and the middle and bottom row read:  
Riksmuseum
Stockholm

 

At that point we began getting very excited.  After finding the Swedish bird banding authorities' info online, I submitted full details and several photos to the Bird Ringing Centre at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.  They emailed back to say the bird was likely banded at The Ottenby Bird Observatory on an island in the Baltic Sea, but that my band code was missing the final character.  I went back through my photos and one showed the final character, but barely due to the curvature of the band.  It seemed to be a "9".  Then I settled in to wait for the museum to put me in touch with the original bander of the bird - complicated by Christmas vacations and Covid fallout.

 

I am not sure if this photo will expand well on ST but check my Flickr page for an expanded montage view of the band from different angles.

 

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Then through the speed of social media, the assistance of Nathan Swick of the American Birding Association https://twitter.com/N8Swick/status/1342537211066150914, and the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook page, I made contact with Magnus Hellström - Warden of the Ottenby Bird Observatory on Öland Island, Sweden.  Magnus said the band in that sequence ending in a "9" was still on his desk but that the last character was actually a "5" with curvature of the band and a hint of a shadow in the photo.   And he gave me the interesting story of the Little Stint with band code 2KN51475.  

 

See his excellent blog post for more info:   https://forskningsbloggen.ottenby.se/a-unique-record-of-a-swedish-stint-in-charleston-south-carolina-usa/

 

This particular Little Stint was hatched in summer 2020 on high arctic tundra, banded in southern Sweden in September during southbound migration, and photographed in coastal South Carolina in December.  What a globetrotter!

 

A Little Stint sighting in North America outside islands off Alaska is very rare, and a first for South Carolina.  Finding a banded one and obtaining legible photos of all the band numbers is totally unprecedented.  

 

Magnus says this story made the news in Sweden including a national TV broadcast.  If only the USA were that enlightened.

 

I think this story emphasizes the importance of Christmas Bird Counts and their data + results, the importance of bird banding to understanding their movements and biology, and of international cooperation between ornithologists.  Magnus and I plan to publish a short paper in a bird journal about this remarkable bird linking ornithologists on two continents.

 

Edited by offshorebirder
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Peter Connan

Wow Nathan, what a find and story! Well done!

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janzin

Incredible find, great story!

 

 

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Atdahl

Awesome!

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mtanenbaum

This is such a great story! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us.

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michael-ibk

The migration of birds is one of the greatest Wonders in the World. Such a cool find Nathan, I love stories like these! 

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offshorebirder

Thanks for the kind words and well wishes @Peter Connan, @janzin, @Atdahl, @mtanenbaum, and @michael-ibk.

 

The best part was that the stint was very vigorous and obviously well-fed and healthy.  It was doing well with its Least Sandpiper companions.  I hope it can make it back to a breeding area for Little Stints up in the artic tundra.

 

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Tom Kellie

@offshorebirder ~ What a magnificent birding achievement.

 

Christmas bird counts are valuable in various ways, as your tale makes plain.

 

The recognition of the global links of wildlife is heartening.

 

In an era of lockdowns and travel disruptions, your Calidris minuta underscored that it's indeed one planet

 

My cap is doffed out of respect for your unwavering commitment to environmental protection and birding.

 

May 2021 be another year of meaningful bird observations in South Carolina and beyond.

 

      Tom K.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom Kellie

@offshorebirder~ One of the nicest places I stayed several time was Murera Springs Eco Resort.

 

Located very near the primary entrance of Kenya's Meru National Park, it was a charming experience during every visit.

 

It's operated by long-time Swedish Safaritalk member @nhanqwho designed it to be an environmentally respectful camp.

 

The connections between Sweden and Africa are pleasantly joined by the Calidris minuta connection to South Carolina.

 

Again, many thanks for the images and details of your experience in identifying the bird bands.

 

Tom K.

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ForWildlife

Very very cool story! Great find, and thanks for sharing!

You wonder what route the little bird has taken, since it seemed to have started of in the right direction.

I read on the blog that in 15 million birds to have been ringed in Sweden, this is only the second one to have been recorded in the US!

Edited by ForWildlife
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offshorebirder

@ForWildlife - I have given a lot of thought to how the Little Stint reached the southeastern coast of North America.  

 

Perhaps it was traveling southeast from southern Sweden, and due to a strong storm, got blown out over the Atlantic - instead of going down the coast of Europe through Morocco and into Africa.  And from the Atlantic, landed in North America in Nova Scotia, Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras, etc.   Then headed south according to migratory impulses.

 

Perhaps it had a mis-wired compass.   Or perhaps both a storm and a faulty compass.

    

 

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patvid

This is awesome.  Not only new to SC but probably (that I can find) latest fall record in North America.  Because of identification issues in other than adult breeding plumage virtually all east coast records are May - July. Records for New England, Delaware, NC.  Well done with the band!   Anyone look for it since?

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patvid

Little Stints are thought to arrive in North East to mid Atlantic with Semipalmated Sandpiper migration from Alaska southeast through Chesapeake tributaries in late summer.  But the few spring records (first Delaware 1979) seem to have likely wintered in South America and returned north with SESA

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offshorebirder
22 hours ago, patvid said:

 Anyone look for it since?

No, as it is not publicly accessible.

 

 

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Kitsafari

Such an exciting discovery.. What is so amazing to me is that this young bird was on its first migration but survived its journey across the Atlantic to land in your patch. How incredible  it is to have that strength and resilience. Migratory birds are just so incredible. Over in Singapore, the ornithologists revealed late last year that common redshanks and whimbrels  tagged in the TIbetan plateau and central Russia fly over the Himalayas to reach our shores. Such a thrilling discovery. Tagging is such an invaluable data tool to making amazing discoveries. 

 

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offshorebirder
16 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

Over in Singapore, the ornithologists revealed late last year that common redshanks and whimbrels  tagged in the TIbetan plateau and central Russia fly over the Himalayas to reach our shores.

 

Wow - that is amazing.   Like the cranes that do it, but shorebirds are so much smaller.   

 

I had not heard that - thanks @Kitsafari.

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