Monday, 16 April 2012

Nordmann's or Common Greenshank?

Common Greenshank
Tringa nebularia
Laem Pak Bia - Abandonned Building, Phetchburi Province

Our journey home went smoothly until we reached the point where the Hua Hin/Cha-am bypass road rejoins the Phetchkasem Highway, (the Phetchkasem proper, Highway 4, goes through Cha-am and Hua Hin, the latter a notorious bottleneck); we hit a wall of traffic extending northwards as far as the eye could see and it wasn't even crawling. We know the roads in this area very well so we were able to divert to north Cha-am and then proceed north along the coastal road which passes through "Thailand Birding Central" - Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale. As it was on our way we stopped at Bang Kao. A quick scan of the beach showed a Greater Crested Tern; that became the target and as you can see I got a shot of it. Quite an ugly bird really! The shot shows the key diagnostics: yellow bill, dark sides - the Lesser Crested Tern, a rarer bird, is smaller, has an orange bill and is lighter. I can never remember these distinctions in the field!

Greater Crested Tern
Thalasseus bergii
Bang Ban Kao, Phetchburi Province

We proceeded north and decided to head into the Abandonned Building at Laem Pak Bia. There was a huge flock of Black-tailed Godwits, perhaps 1500+. I have never seen so many but big flocks like this are not uncommon here. Then a group of Greenshanks grabbed my attention, ten in total one of which was an on its own own and nearer to me.(see top photo) I thought: "Bingo! These are Nordmann's Greenshanks".  75% of me still thinks this a correct call though the 25% doubt is substantial. The problem is the birds legs are in water and so it is hard to evaluate their actual size as the depth of the water is unknown. Pro Nordmann's: shape, structure: angular,stocky,"ventral", not much of a neck although that could be deceptive, no brown in the scapulars, basal half of bill is greenish. Pro Common: I could hear some calling and Nordmann's are generally silent; then I get them wrong and I just don't have the experience or knowledge to say definitively what it is. But herein is the great joy of birding, the challenge, if you like. What is it? I can't say with certainty and I am happy to acknowledge this. My call is Nordmann's. I've put some feelers out. One has come back 90% sure it is Nordmann's. We shall see. Feel free to comment!

Update 17.04.12 Thanks to Peter Ericsson and Phil Round for putting me right: it is a Common Greenshank. Peter wrote :"Bill is too long and pointed for Nordmann's. Legs are also too long" and from Phil: "Common Greenshank (breeding plumage) due to length of the legs and pointed bill."

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