Cley NWT, Norfolk, 1 December 2011

Have I seen a Western Sandpiper today?!
Or have others gripped me back and got Semi-palmated Sandpiper on their county lists?
A dawn start saw me up at Cley and within a short while of getting to Pats Pool/Simmonds Scrape the mystery peep was picked out amongst roosting Dunlin, Ruff and Golden Plovers. It quickly woke and prompty flew - damn! Luckily it was picked up again and watched on and off for a good hour and a half, at times pretty close in front of Dawkes Hide on Simmonds.
So? What is it? Western or Semi-P? 
Well, this observer left with the impression that it was a rather long-billed Semi-P but RBA are now putting it out as a Western.
To sum up the birds seems to show:
  • Obvious palmations - a feature of both Western and Semi-P so no help really!
  • Some retained juvenile scapular feathers with a rufous tinge - Westerns moult before migration, Semi-Ps afterwards so this might suggest Semi-P but how much can moult be relied upon in a tranatlantic vagrant? 
  • A long bill with a fine tip - maybe too long for a long-billed female Semi-P but there is overlap 
  • The general jizz of being quite dumpy and short-legged - good for Semi-P?
  • Darkish ear coverts and crown (a quote in the hide - 'almost phalarope like')
  • Concave edge to 'arrowhead' on a least one of the rear lower scaps. This I didn't see in the field but have one one of Steve Gantlett's photos - if correct this would indicate Semi-P
So, inconclusive I'd say! BUT someone must presumably have something else for the messages to now be so certain it's Western. I, for one won't be complaining if it is!

BTW - the drake Green-winged Teal was also still present on Pat's Pool. 

Links to some photos of the peep and the debate here and here 

Western Sandpiper, Cley (copyright Ron Marshall)

1 comment:

  1. Your thoughts are very similar to my own.

    Why should I change my Norfolk list and replace semi p with western?