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Thread: Western/Semi-P Sandpiper ID - Cley and other birds

  1. #21
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    I am rather hesitant to join this debate at the moment as I haven't seen it in the field yet.
    But this bird from the photo's seems to me to have the feel of semi-p, it just looks a bit to round and dumpy to me. Also to me the shape of the scaps
    looks more like anchor than arrowhead.
    Yes at times it looks leggy and long-billed but there are some Semi-p pics out there depicting some bills of a length any small peep would be proud of.

  2. #22

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    Great, as if these things weren't confusing enough! It certainly doesn't help the discussion inserting those between the subject bird's. I see Steve labels his pics as Western - is it a consensus for experienced observers who've seen the bird?

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian S View Post
    Steve G has posted images of the weird wader at Cley - http://www.birdingworld.co.uk/Cley%202011.1.htm
    So why is the second bird not just a short-billed Dunlin...?

    Josh

  4. #24
    Moderator Brian S's Avatar
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    ..a few retained richly coloured juvenile upper scaps just visible on Steve G's new pics - a pro Western feature

    http://www.birdingworld.co.uk/images...01_12_2011.jpg

    http://www.birdingworld.co.uk/images...01_12_2011.jpg

    Brian S

  5. #25
    Senior Member AndyB's Avatar
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    I find this a very confusing bird. Would agree that the rich chestnut tones on some feathers suggest Western. Seems to have rufous wash to a number of feathers and also base of bill too. Looking at the rest of the photos, however, it seems to have a little bit of both Semi-p and Western in its jizz. I showed Cin-Ty the photos today and we're both equally confused.

    And this other weird bird in the same flock - is it also peep-sized or like Josh suggests just a short-billed Dunlin?

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by forktail View Post
    Julian Hough considers the lower scaps (from images available) to be Semi-p.
    Julian (on BF) has rowed back from this view after seeing more recent pics.
    Dave

  7. #27
    Senior Member forktail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forktail View Post
    Given the reported field impressions of a more Dunlin-like and leggy bird, the clearly long bill, and perhaps the feeding posture (appearing front-heavy) and feeding action, then the only thing mitigating against a Western would be the moult - and how reliable would that be on a vagrant?
    F.
    Presumably we're over this hurdle, and moult is an interesting side issue now that several pro-Western features have been observed in the field, and the exact shape of the scap markings has been adduced and is within the range of Western (or the variation is now appreciated as wider than before). Although we should note that several people are still not totally convinced.

    The other bird could well be a hybrid (facial pattern and white underparts) or just a manky Dunlin as it doesn't really strike you as anything in particular and seems to be a bit too close in size to Dunlin and is rather marked below, going from the few pics...

    F.
    Last edited by forktail; December 2nd, 2011 at 10:45 AM.
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  8. #28
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    The moult was a concern for me. How could the bird be a western? There is evidence, not scientific proof, that vagrant western sandpipers on migration may delay their moult.

    I could not discern the scapular markings on a moving bird in the field but now good photographs have been circulated and with pro-western comment from the US, the continued reporting of this bird as a western sandpiper makes sense.

  9. #29
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    After discussing this bird with the finder on numerous occasions, I made the effort and went up this morning to see the bird concerned. Frustratingly, the flock is very mobile, with frequent forays by Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and even a Merlin over the reserve pools. You get little opportunity to study this bird in detail as it wheels around with up to 27 Dunlins.

    On a few occasions, I obtained excellent views but not for long. The odd short-billed and gleaming white underparts calidrid was only fractionally smaller than a Dunlin and was therefore considered, as JJ intimated, a short-billed DUNLIN.

    I was very surprised at the appearance of the 'peep' and although it superficially resembled a small Dunlin with its nondescript grey winter plumage, it was very difficult to make out the detail in the scapulars and wing-coverts that is apparent in SJMG's photographs. It seemed to me to be a rather egg-shaped, rotund small wader, with not a particularly long bill, a very white face and with a heavily contrasting ear-covert - in every respect, a Semipalmated Sandpiper. It did occasionally run around fast like a Sanderling and feed in the fashion of the Dunlin but could also probe slowly, methodically and close to the ground. This did not seem like a typical Western Sandpiper to me, although I cannot argue with the fact that those new feathers in the upper scapulars are those you would only expect from a Western.

    I am still very intrigued by it. I guess it comes down to how well you see it. Others were raving about the chestnut/rufous in the scapulars; I just could not see this unfortunately, despite trying hard. Perhaps it is all down to the light conditions - this afternoon the sun was beaming down from the low west with a fresh west wind blowing

    In case others are visiting this weekend, the s....e abounded with waders and wildfowl, with 14 Pied Avocets, numerous Black-tailed Godwits, 12 Ruff, a lovely drake North American Green-winged Teal, many Pintail, 400+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Water Rail, etc

    The sea was also quite eventful, with LITTLE AUKS offshore (33 seen in total, most seen between 0930 and 1130), BLACK-THROATED DIVER, SLAV GREBE and about 55 Common Scoter - and 34 SNOW BUNTINGS commuting back and forth along the shingle up to 200 yards either side of Coastguards.......

  10. #30
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    Default Western Sand

    Mark had emailed me about the bird, initially thinking it might be a long-billed Semi and wanted to know my thoughts. I expressed my views that while it looked initially good for Western - the state of moult (late for Western) and what appeared to be a long, but heavy bill seemed to favor a long-billed (female) Semi. This pic I saw seemed to reinforce that thought:
    http://www.birdforum.net/attachment....5&d=1322588954

    Based on Lee's comments above and his confusion, I think there's a couple of issue that are at play depending on what side of the pond you are on. For me, I just misjudged the bird and the bill shape and expecting a Western to be further along in moult, thought it more likely a Semi.

    It wasn't until I saw Steve G.'s photos the other day that capture the birds rufous fore scaps and bill shape that really do say "Western", hence my flip-flop on BF. These can be tricky birds, no doubt, but after reading the threads, with great arguements and opinions, how much is down to the varying appearance in photos? I think many experienced birders in the US, looking at just these photos by Steve G., may not have wrestled so hard with it. It certainly looks like a different bird than in John's shot above and I wonder how much photographic interpretation is responsible for the varying opinions of many birders on both sides of the pond??

    As far as moult, I haven't seen a Western this late sporting this much retained juv. plumage. It typically holds true for many individuals that a late bird in a lot of juv. plumage is more likely a Semi (one reason the Felixstowe bird was identified as such). I spoke with a friend here in the States, who agreed that while this is true, in his opinion some Westerns can be at this stage. Especially in a vagrancy context, the Cley bird seems to dispell this myth, or much of the weight attributed to it.

    Anyway, as I said before, kudos to Mark for being sharp and finding this on his patch, a great educational bird became even better if everyone widely accepts it as a Western.

    Good stuff!
    Last edited by Jrhough1; December 3rd, 2011 at 01:29 AM.

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