As they breed in Scotland and mostly migrate to Africa for the winter (some birds do over-winter in coastal estuaries in Britain), I don’t get to see Greenshanks very often in my part of south Wales. So, it was particularly nice to get quite close, prolonged views of this pair at RSPB Lodmoor recently.
Tringa nebularia is the Greenshank’s scientific name, which Wikipedia explains as follows:
The genus name Tringa is … based on [the] Ancient Greek trungas, a thrush-sized, white-rumped, tail-bobbing wading bird mentioned by Aristotle. The specific nebularia is from [the] Latin nebula “mist” [which] … refers to the greenshank’s damp marshy habitat.
I’d like to think nebularia also refers to its winter appearance, a ghostly grey-and-white bird wading through mist-wreathed waterways on a chilly winter morning, uttering its short but evocative teu-teu-teu call, or, as Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss more elegantly write in their treasury of daily wildlife encounters, Wonderland:
… on a misty September morning, they have a pale luminosity, white beneath and lichen-grey above with a longish, slightly retroussé bill and greenish legs.
The greenish legs are, of course, the origin of its common name Greenshank and, though the colour is not always very apparent, you can see the obvious contrast between the Greenshanks’ legs and those of the Lesser yellowlegs in the photo below.
You can also get a good idea of the Greenshanks’ comparative size in this next photo, which shows, from left to right, a Ruff, the Lesser yellowlegs, two Greenshanks and a Dunlin.