Saturday, 22 September 2012

Juv Semipalmated Sandpiper V adult Little Stint

Dungeness ARC - 9th-17th September 2012 - A few thoughts on the stint/sandpiper debate surrounding the bird present at Dungeness ARC pit on the aforementioned dates. The first thing to say was that it was not seen at close range making detailed observations of feather minutia difficult to observe and none of my digi-pics were of any use. However, having studied Plodding Birders pics posted yesterday, which I am almost certain is of the same bird throughout, and comparing it with a juv Little Stint, I would proffer the following comments.
When first seen it was with an obvious juv Little Stint and appeared to be slightly larger and with a stockier bill base. Overall it appeared greyish above, white below with a flared supercilium and black bare parts which I took to be an adult Little Stint in winter plumage. This was my first mistake, as having studied PBs pics it is clearly a juvenile, judging from the condition of the neatly fringed back and wing feathers.
With the age sorted out the following point towards a juv Semip:
- obvious back V markings absent, although one pic shows a faint double line down the back
- neat double row of dark patterned scapulars (too distant to discern anchor markings) contrasting with greyer wing coverts and pale edged tertials
- white flared supercilium with contrasting dark streaked cap and obvious ear covert patch; brownish-grey breast sides.
Combine this with the size (larger that Little Stint) and stouter bill, in conclusion it was almost certainly a juv Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Fair play to Chris Batty for flagging it up and Plodding Birder for posting the pics; and if it is finally adjudged to be a Semip by the great and good, then it looks as though I cocked up, together with a few other locals! I should add that I`ve seen loads of Semipalmated Sandpipers in North America, so there really isn`t any excuse!
Please feel free to comment.
The great thing about this birding game is that you never stop learning.

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