Greetings to everyone from my current 5-week home of Gambell, Alaska. Wish
I was home in San Diego for a few hours looking at this bird! The identity
of this bird as a pure Great Knot is now the subject of some discussion.
The possibility of it being a hybrid (with Surfbird? both species breed in
similar montane rocky tundra) was first brought to my attention in a
message from Guy McCaskie. I have now looked at the photos posted by
Brennan, Trent, and Vic, and to me the bill does NOT look like that of a
typical Great Knot in any of the photos. It looks too short and
straight--and too thin in Trent's and Vic's, but thicker based (more
Surfbird like) in Brennan's. Brennan's shot also shows a pale, dull, messy
orangey-yellow color at the base more suggestive of Surfbird. Questions
have also been raised about the bird's plumage pattern in flight--although
I have seen no photos of that or read any descriptions.
Of course SINGLE PHOTOS CAN LIE!! There is no substitute for a long series
of photos from multiple photographers, and of course no substitute for
seeing the bird well in life. So other folks will need to chime in about
whether these bill details are accurate or not, and what else the bird
looked like, such as its patterning in flight.
I heard from Curtis Marantz, who saw the bird yesterday, that he is still
researching the species. He is not sure what's going on. He also says that
Great Knot may be more variable than we thought, so this MIGHT explain some
of these "odd" features we are seeing. But more digging is needed.