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Red-necked phalaropes return!

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Saturday 22nd May 2010 | Birding in Shetland

Last but by no means least, the phalaropes arrived back today!! Undoubtedly one of our most charasmatic of breeding bird species here in Shetland and a true Fetlar speciality- the Red-necked phalarope. Typically the ‘phals’ are the last breeding species to return to breed in spring. Mid May, usually between the 15th- 20th used to be the typical arrival dates but in resent years birds have been slightly later.

In the British Isles Fetlar still holds the lions share of this essentially Arctic breeding wader. With rarely more than 15 pairs in recent years, the breeding population is of great national importance. Typical of many Northern breeding species, phalaropes have a very intense breeding season, they are the last to arrive back and the first to leave, adult birds have usually all left with in the first few days of August and by the end of the first week most of the juvenisles have followed.

For the phalaropes it is very much a womans world indeed, once she has laid her eggs- her work is done! The male is left to incubate and rear the chicks all by himself! Females will often repeat this more than once in a season and often go off and find another mate!

It is not just their breeding roles that are reversed, it is the females that are the ‘lookers’, which can be seen by this bird I managed to photograph today, all be it a poor image but their beauty is hard to hide!

What an absolute privilege to have grown up on Fetlar with these bird literally on our doorstep.