Sunday, 12 July 2009

A question of ID

Wandered up to East Chevington yesterday afternoon in the hope of a decent view of a Roseate Tern in the strong sunshine. As a Heron flew overhead arrived at the hide to find DE, the patch specialist, already in position no doubt preparing for Sundays Webs count. I scanned the pool and identified the usual suspects. Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns. Greater, Lesser, Black headed and nine Little Gulls which I somehow managed to overlook on first viewing. Plenty of Lapwing, three sleeping Ringed Plover with a Dunlin, a few Redshank. Two Mute Swans with two cygnets, pair of Shelduck with a brood of three, Gadwall with four, a couple of Mallard family groups, twenty or so very eclipse Tufties on the middle island with three Cormorants and in the far distance a family group of Greylag Geese.

AG arrived to be shortly followed by three other birders. Discussion started as to the ID of a small bird on the south shore but it was just a fly catching Pied Wagtail dashing about. The birder to my left, Mick I think, mentioned a Grey Plover on the farthest patch of mud……..hadn’t seen that on my scan so scoped in to find a glorious summer plumage bird. Not having seen a summer plumage Grey before I called it in error as a Golden, this being the default observation for a land lubber like me, and everybody got a good view.

Minutes later the whole flock of Terns and Lapwing rose up, circled with some Oystercatcher then put down again and DE pointed out the arrival of four Bar Tailed Godwit which I had again missed. Nice birds coming out of summer plumage, got some fine views and then relocated the Plover with the Lapwing flock. Whilst watching the Godwits I was aware that DE and AG were becoming more animated about the Plover and some discussion with digiscoping ensued. DE advised me that the bird just wasn’t right and could be a Golden. I felt it looked big but without any other birds to compare offered to go get my field guide. Walking back flicking through the book it occurred they were considering one of the rarer Golden Plovers and when set up again they went through the salient features…smaller slimmer bodied with proportionately larger head, long legged, coarser plumage, tertials longer and buff grey underside not white to the wings. Where is the usual flock of hundreds of Golden plover you usually have to sort through when you need a comparison? I remember the black was very black, the wings very pale especially from the rear where the back stood out as a darker band and appeared to have three concentric rings. We waited for the bird to fly. Two other birders turned up and just as they entered that wretched metal hide, the field guide fell on the ground and AG announced the bird in flight and that the underside wings were grey but on turning…..nothing. None of the other birds had moved but after thorough scanning, the Plover had gone.

We looked and looked, especially when other birders we had alerted turned up but to no avail. I left just after five pm whilst AG and ADMc headed off for the south pool and DE arrived back from a two mile hike round the north!
Checked Druridge Pools and Cresswell in vain hope on the way back but few of anything there when, getting back into my car at Cresswell my text alert went off …’probable Pacific Golden Plover at East Chevington south pool’. They’d found it and, confirmed by later sightings that evening I had a new life tick. As you will also see, I never once raised camera to my eye but then it saves me from saying...'you see that dot there, thats a Pacific Golden Plover you know'


  1. After seeing the Birdguides alert it is interesting to read about the deliberations that were gone through to reach a conclusion

  2. The other two guys are the experts. I would have looked at the bird for hours and not realised it was special so it was dead lucky I was there at the time.