Friday 28 January 2011

Look out for the odd one (wader)

Identifying waders (shore birds) is not easy and many new birders find it daunting.  I did and still do!  However I find one or two things really help when you come across one of the less common waders. The first tip I would give is to take good photos (not one but a series). My second tip is have some very willing experts as friends. I am lucky enough to have two!

So I was very happy when I got my new camera last week. It allows me to take better photos of waders. The one below is a wood sandpiper taken at Old Marj.

wood sandpiper at Old Marj

Even though the above bird doesn't have the usual long supercilium, it is clearly a wood sandpiper as the details in the photo show (colour of legs, colour of wings and white spots on wings as well as general shape).

possible temminck's stint with wood sandpiper

My third tip is to view and photograph a rarer bird against a known one.  This was really helpful this week.

I was tracking a bird at Old Marj with my binoculars which looked a bit like the tens of dunlin present but it was very noticeably smaller. Furthermore it wasn't flocking with them.

Seeing it next to a wood sandpiper (see above photo), it couldn't possibly be a dunlin which is 95% of the size of a wood sandpiper. It had to be a stint - either little stint or temminck's stint.

In fact it is obviously so small that temminck's stint looks the better choice particularly if you also take into account that its shape is consistent too. 

And one of my two expert friends also thinks it might be the better call too. 

Temminck's stint has been seen in very small numbers in Libya by the UN wetlands winter count in the past. 

I am keen for everyone to know that it you can see it here as well as in Egypt!

To finish off the blog I would like to report for the record that I have also seen ringed plover at Old Marj to add to the growing list of waders you can see there.

juvenile ringed plover

Tomorrow I will report on my trip today near Tripoli. I can promise you there are some wonderful birds to see.


  1. I totally agree that a camera is a valuable tool for ID. There are many birders that are critical and say that we should rely on field notes, but sometimes a bird hangs around for only a few seconds and you don't want to waste time fumbling around for a notebook and pen. I find it particularly important when birding in an unfamiliar country, where there are so many new birds to look at that you just don't have time to take notes on them all. I always carry a notebook, but I mainly use it now for other observations and for descriptions of birds I know to be rarities.

  2. Tom,

    Everything you say makes logical sense. I ought to practise what you preach. You have persuaded me to invest in a notebook for rarities