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lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

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Monday, 12 December 2011 23:37

Red-necked Phalarope – arctic swimmer

Besides Great Snipe (Gallinago media), one of the birds I was looking for during our summer trip to Mid-Norway was the beautiful little wader Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). While the popular leks of Great Snipe are located in mountains in Levanger area close to Trondeimsfjord, some of the good spots for watching Phalaropes is the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park south of Oppdal.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


The idea was to get into the field shortly after the moment when snow starts melting in the mountains and birds come to these limited patches of snow-free ground, where they can easily be observed. But nature is unpredictable – last year the snow went down very quickly so when we got into the mountains in middle of June, there were just patches of ice and the rest was free of snow – naturally the birds have already spread all over the mountain plateaus and were difficult to locate.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


This all meant I had to change my strategy – instead of searching for a snow-free spots I was wandering across the mountains with the hope to come across something interesting. Fortunately the area is very rich bird-wise and birds like Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus), Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) or Great Northern Diver (Gavia arctica) are common species there. To my disappointment there were no signs of Red-necked Phalaropes around.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


Fortunately I met two birders from Trondheim in the afternoon who directed me to lakes where they had seen some Phalaropes in the morning. As a miracle another single bird appeared on the nearby lake as we were chatting. No wonder I overlooked the bird before – it is very small bird – just a little larger than e.g. Little Ringed Plover. As an excuse I can tell that Phalaropes like to hide themselves into the water grass and so the best way how to check their presence is to play their voice recording at a lake shore – if they are there, they will surely show up.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


I had an opportunity to try the recording at the lake the birders sent me to – right after playing few first notes of the recording three females came towards me but soon disappeared in the grass again. I spent some 2 hours with the birds chasing them around the lake – this time mostly without luring. The good thing about these birds is that they are pretty curious and tame at the same tame so it is not rare to get them very close. While I was lying on the lake shore, one of the females came so close to me so that I would be able to touch her – nice compensation for the fact that from this distance I was not able to focus my camera onto the bird :-)


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


Red-necked Phalarope is very small but agile bird and I had great difficulties to keep it in focus with my 500mm lens attached to camera that is primarily built for such action (1DmarkIII). Luckily the other day I came across Phalaropes again on a different locality – Ørkelsjøen, which is better known as a good place for spotting Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) and Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). This time Phalarope cooperated nicely with me – not only swimming in the waves of the lake but also wading on the sandy beach just few meters from me.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


I was so happy I had a chance to see this bird from so close although I wished I had seen more action. But in the time I observed the birds it was after mating season – it meant the males were already sitting on eggs and the visible birds were only females. Yes, no wonder, Red-necked Phalarope belongs to the group of birds with diverse role of genders – while males with duller colours take care of the hatch, females are decorated with bold colours. Red-necked Phalarope is one of the most colourful European waders and it has also distinctive way of feeding. While other waders mostly do what they are supposed to do – they wade into the mud – Phalaropes rather swim in shallow waters and peck tiny insect fro the water surface or stems of the plans. It looks like a little duck on the water and Norwegians have very descriptive name for them – Svømmesnipe, which can loosely be translated as „swimming wader“. It nests in mountainous wetlands of Scandinavia and Russia and it can rarely be seen in central Europe during its autumn migration to Arabian Sea.


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)


I hope to meet again with this beautiful little bird next summer when I’m heading off to Varanger peninsula – the northernmost corner of Norway famous for its rich birdlife. On some Varanger localities there can be as many as several hundred Pharalopes at the same time. How fascinating the arctic nature can be...


Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)



Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 20:44
Comments (120)
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