Windbreak footprints

June 2010 saw New South Wales experiencing its coldest winter in over sixty years.

Humans weren’t the only critters trying to get out of the freezing southerly winds. While walking on the beach at Wooli, near Grafton in New South Wales, Harry and I spotted a group of Red-capped Plovers (Charadrius ruficapillus) lined up in tyre tracks, apparently seeking a respite from the wind. These tiny shorebirds are easy to miss when beach-walking, as they race about like wind-blown tufts of seaweed, or freeze and melt into the sand.

While I was checking them out a local walked past, and some of the birds raced over to her footprints, each bird seeming to sink as far as possible into the sandy depressions.

One slightly larger bird in the group of about 15 turned out to be a Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus). This is a visitor from New Zealand – these birds breed there and travel to eastern and southern Australia in winter.

Red-capped Plovers keep out of the wind in tyre tracks.

Red-capped plover – a very cute shorebird indeed.

Red-capped plovers in footprints in sand.

Some of the birds move quickly to take advantage of human footprints.

Red-capped and double-banded plovers.

A single visitor from New Zealand among the group – a Double-banded Plover. A Red-capped races past the Double-banded (right). Dodgy shots in freezing wind with Canon G10 compact.

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