Redshanks are well known for being flighty birds – as soon as they spot something out-of-their-ordinary, or there’s a sudden movement within their range of vision, they start body-bobbing and, if the disturbance continues, they’ll signal their kindred with a noisy cry and fly off. That usually means every other wader in the vicinity also reacts to their alarm, and it’s why Redshanks have long been known as the sentinels of the marshes.
In my area, it’s more a case of them being sentinels of the river embankment. And now that I’ve learnt to recognise their behaviour and see that first body-bob, I know to stop, stand still and wait for them to calm down. As long as no other pedestrian comes along to disturb them, my patience and stillness are often rewarded with some lovely time spent watching them feeding or just snoozing. I’ve found it can be very relaxing watching a bird sleep.