Little Stint – 2012

Calidris minuta – PIBYDD BACH – Scarce passage migrant and rare winter visitor. Not recorded in March and June

Little Stints breed on the tundra from northern Scandinavia to eastern Siberia. Those in the western sector migrate on a broad front to winter in southern Europe and Africa and it is birds from this population which occur on passage in the UK. The number involved varies. In summers when the Lemming population on the tundra is high wader productivity tends to be high as predators like Arctic Foxes concentrate on the easily obtained rodents, to the benefit of the birds. However weather with predominantly easterly winds that drifts migrant Little Stints west of their normal course is required to displace them as far as the UK in any number. The infrequency of the combination of these factors occurring at the appropriate time results in high totals being erratically recorded in Pembrokeshire.

Both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949) described the Little Stint as an occasional autumn visitor to Pembrokeshire. Donovan and Rees (1994) assessed it as principally a scarce autumn visitor the majority seen in September but also as infrequently recorded in the spring and rare in winter.

A total of 40 birds were recorded in Pembrokeshire between 1911 and 1982 being noted in 16 of those years. This was likely to have been an under representation due to the paucity of observers over that period. This is perhaps emphasized by only 5 being recorded in 1960 when at least 3,000 were noted in the UK, over 300 of them in Wales. However, observer cover was sufficiently widespread in the county to present representative autumn returns for the years 1983 – 2012:

Mostly autumn totals lay between one and 14 but there were notable influxes in 1993 when 220 were recorded in Wales, 36 of them in Pembrokeshire, and in 1996 at least 172 were noted in the county, over 600 being accounted for in Wales as a whole. They have been noted in autumn from the 14th July to the 21st November but the bulk of occurrences have been in September, when juveniles have predominated.

Small numbers of Little Stints over winter in southern Britain as may have singles at Milford on the 20th January 1963, at the Gann from the 11th November to the 13th December 1969 and Lawrenny on the 30th January 1993, 2 at the Gann on the 6th February 1977 and 10 at Fishguard Harbour on the 14th January 1929.

Single Little Stints have been recorded in spring in nine years, between the 27th April and the 27th May, with two together at the Nevern Estuary on the 5th June 2005.

Little Stints have been seen in most coastal districts including the main offshore islands, with just one inland record at Llys y fran Reservoir on the 20th August 1996. The largest concentrations have been on the estuaries of the Teifi, Nevern and Cleddau, the maximum at one site being 34 at Angle Bay on the 22nd September 1996. They have also been seen on pools on the islands, by puddles at Dale airfield and on beaches at Newgale, Broad Haven (N) and Broad Haven (S).

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

More about the Little Stint in Pembrokeshire