Upland Sandpiper

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Upland Sandpiper
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 21:36:49 +1000
Greetings All,
I realized that the Upland Sandpiper ( U.Sp.) was a rare vagrant to Australia but did not realize how rare so anticipate a lot of inquiries. Glenn Holmes was going out to the site to photograph the bird today and this is being prepared to be sent when I receive a report from him. He is out to dinner so will provide more info later. I guess this suggests that he did not find and photograph the bird. Have just spoken to Glenn who saw a Little Curlew at the site. He saw all the birds we did plus Golden Plover, less Black-tailed Godwits so I guess that I will have to revise my opinion. Read on only if interested in why I came to my initial identification. Remember that what follows was written before getting Glenn's report. I hope no-one has booked flights!
As mentioned in the previous posting the bird was seen while on the twitch. My first impression when I looked at the bird through binoculars was of a Little Curlew. As neither of my companions were familiar with them, I set up the scope for a better view. Immediately it was obvious that the bird was not that species. It lacked the line through the eye and the crown stripe. I directed my friends to look through the scope, paying attention to whether it had an eye stripe, while I dived for a field guide, Slater,1990. The only close match was with the  U.Sp. which I noted did not have a distribution map so I returned to the scope and made the following notes.
"Upright stance
Pale based bill pinkish
larger than Sharptailed Sandpiper
Pale legs greenish grey
base of bill (2/5) pink
end dark, perhaps slightly decurved
darkish centre to tail"
After the twitch finished, 15 minutes later I could no longer see the bird. We discussed the bird in question and compared illustrations in a number of Field Guides.
At home I made the following notes from memory.
"Raised wings when cattle approached
This had appeared to me as a defensive behaviour. I recorded this because of noting in Hayman, Marchant & Prater that U. Sp often raises wings on landing but I have no clear memory of this. When disturbed the bird flew a short distance but there were stock moving near there as well and it flew again, circling over the water a number of times but, not finding a space free of stock, it flew away.
"Light face, black eye.
No white in the wings above or below"  This referred to the absence of any wing bar.
Now realizing the rarity of the sighting doubts creep in. The sticking points in the identification are the colour of the bare parts and that the bird was not as heavily marked on the flanks as in some illustrations. I am confident that it was not a Little Curlew as the bird lacked the dark markings on the head. I am confident that it was not a Buff-breasted Sandpiper because at all times the bird's stance was of a long necked bird, closer in size to the Godwits than to the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. The bicoloured bill eliminates Oriental Plover. A juvenile Mountain Plover, Charadrius montanus, is a possible to match the description recorded except for the bill and it not migrating such huge distances; Canada to USA and return.
Any other ideas welcome but I will stand by my initial identification for the moment.
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