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Friday, 10 April 2009

Lesser Golden Plover: Pacific or American?

The Easter holiday got off to a very good start, when I successfully twitched a bird at Breydon Water (I usually dip birds on Breydon, so this was a pleasant surprise!) a Pacific or American Golden Plover. These birds can sometimes be difficult to separate. The bird is moulting into summer plumage and compared to Golden is quite pale with golden speckled back, dark greyish cap (more a feature of American) with the grey extending down the nape narrowing slightly before joining the mantle. It had a pale whitish face with darker area behind its eye slightly kinking downwards. It also had a pale breast with slightly greyish wash on its breast sides. It had a longer legs and in flight this was clearly noted as the feet could be seen projecting just beyond the tail. 
This feature may well favour Pacific Golden Plover. In flight, it of course, showed grey axillaries and not white as in Golden Plover. Assessing tertial length is crucial to ascertaining the ID of the bird, sadly one side were moulted and the other were not. Sometimes, the bird looked at times quite plump and the legs not particularly long. But it was noticably smaller than Golden and appreciably smaller than 2 very close Grey Plovers. The Plover showed well as it fed on a grassy spit, reasonably close to us but not close enough for me to photograph sadly, so no picture this time. The jury is still out on the specific ID of this bird.
The bird attracted an appreciative crowd of about 20 birders who also spotted 1 Sandwich Tern, c300 Black- tailed Godwits, 5 Golden plover, 20 Grey plover, 3 Avocet and a Sanderling and a Large White butterfly.

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