There were no spells when we were in the Algarve earlier this year, or if there were we couldn’t spot them amongst the other waders! My husband though did manage to spot a couple of Little Stints in late April, and with the exception of the flying one these photographs are his.
The collective noun for them in England is ‘Spell’. England, as I’m sure many other countries, has a tradition of group names – terms of venery – which stem from Medieval hunting terminology. Fortunately in England we no longer hunt stints or many other birds, I wish the same could be said of Malta where every Spring hunters destroy thousands of birds including migratory birds.
I am using the wonderful A Conspiracy of Ravens for my collective names, but for an original collection of medieval hunting terms type the ‘Boke of Seynt Albans’ into your search engine!
The Little Stint is a member of the Sandpiper family, and its Portuguese name is Pilrito-pequeno. Despite its size it is one of the longest distance migrants, and most of the ones you will see in Portugal or the UK are depending on when you see them either en route to their breeding grounds in the Arctic or returning to Africa for the winter. Some decide not to travel quite as far and will winter in the Algarve.
Like the flings of Curlew Sandpipers the size of Stint spells are affected by numbers of lemmings. Although for the Little Stints it is not the Arctic Foxes who change their diet but Snowy Owls. The low numbers we saw in April were either because these were the early arrivals, or there were large numbers and we just couldn’t spot them amongst the hundreds of sanderlings, dunlins, sandpipers and other waders!
All of these photographs were taken in the saltpans around Olhão, but if you are staying elsewhere in the Algarve this coming winter then visit Aves de Portugal to find out where to see them nearer you, and do let us know if you see a Spell!