On Sunday Tom Tarrant sent around an email to the effect that some English
birders had seen some Asian Dowitchers in the vicinity of the Manly Marina
[Moreton Bay, SEQ] last week.
I decided to have a looksee this afternoon before visiting a mate at Cleveland.
As the wader roost at Manly Yacht club is now inaccessible, I spent a
depressing hour or so [with intermittent rain and uninspiring cricket
commentary] looking for wader roosts south/east of Manly before I happened on
Beth Boyd Park at the northern end of the esplanade at Thornside [27 28 53S, 153
12 08E]. This is a popular family park and I found a roost to the north of the
park - there is a 50 metre strip of grass between the houses and the shore.
There was a flock of ~ 100 waders, and they were flushed a couple of times -
once by a lady with an umbrella, once by a group on bikes and once by me [before
I took my hat off]. It was 5 pm, grey weather and a light southerly blowing,
and I was looking though 10x binos at say 20-30 metres.
The group was dominated by grey tailed tattlers [size benchmark] and included a
few terek sandpipers, whimbrels and the odd turnstone. I also came across a
couple of birds that may have been the dowitchers, but I would like some
assistance with my interpretation, since I guess there is a chance I may have
confused them with something else.
The first thing I noticed was their scalloped wing plumage which made them stand
out from the uniform grey of the tattlers. They looked to be bigger than the
tattlers, but didn't stand much taller. They had solid black bills possibly
about 7 or 8 cm long - possibly twice the length of the tattlers.
They had some mottling on their necks and flanks, white underbody, with a godwit
like 'tail' [similar shape, wingtips and what I could see of the tail looked
blackish]. It appeared to have a prominent eye, but I had trouble seeing they
white line above the eye [had glimpses of what appeared to be an eye line, but
not as obvious as the tattlers].
Behaviourly, the birds stood out, as they were almost constantly feeding while
the other birds were loafing. They weren't moving while they were probing, but
pretty much poking about on the one spot. They didn't have an exaggerated head
movement and a lot of the time I was looking at their backsides twitching. I
didn't have a good view of their heads for most of the time they were feeding
[often to the back of the other waders, so I can't confirm that they had a
'sewing machine' feeding pattern - though perhaps that is a speed quibble - I
think of sewing machines has fairly fast speed - these chaps were probing at a
few revs per second - say ~200 rpm.
I think I saw one flying - it appeared to be mainly white underneath, with a bit
of darker marking. It didn't appear to be a dumpy or short-necked bird and
occasionally one would walk a few metres at a steady pace [perhaps to get out of
my sight]. At NO stage did I notice any nervous nodding, bobing or tetering.
Does that ring true for an asian dowitcher or have it mixed it up with
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