A TYPE of shorebird not often seen in big numbers in Inverclyde has surprised local nature enthusiasts by turning up in a flock of several hundred at Battery Park, writes David Carnduff.
The small, grey shorebirds — called knot — are winter visitors to a few beaches around the Clyde but, until now, Inverclyde was not considered to be a key area for them.
It came as a surprise, then, when round 300 were recently spotted on the shore at Ironotter Point on the east side of Cardwell Bay.
Contrary to beliefs that their arrival would be temporary, the flock surprised birdwatchers by staying put.
Their grey colour and dumpy appearance makes them rather unremarkable birds and they can easily be overlooked as they as they forage for food among the rocks and seaweed.
But that changes in flight when they form tight, fast-moving flocks which wheel and dip in synchronised manoeuvres similar to starling murmurations.
Knot are highly migratory, with birds from Britain flying to the Arctic tundra for the spring breeding season when their plumage transforms from grey into a warm brick red.
They return south in late summer and huge numbers gather at some coastal sites in Britain.
BBC Countryfile recently showed film of thousands at a wintering site on the Norfolk coast where their spectacular aerial manoeuvres attract many birdwatchers keen to witness what is one of winter’s great spectacles.
Although Cardwell Bay cannot compete with the numbers witnessed in coastal Norfolk, the local flock demonstrates on a smaller scale the interesting behaviour of these birds.
Their unusual name may have been coined as a reference to King Canute (Knut) who is famed to have set his throne on the shore and commanded the tide not to come in.
Meanwhile, local birdwatchers are on the lookout for waxwings, colourful winter visitors from Scandinavia which are appearing in many parts of Scotland.
Some winters they are scarce but this year seems to be a bumper year for the species which feeds voraciously on berry-bearing trees such as rowan.