Re: Knots and Petrels

To: "Rohan Clarke" <>, "Jeff Davies" <>, "Mike Carter" <>
Subject: Re: Knots and Petrels
From: "Trevor Ford" <>
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2009 12:05:04 +1000

Many thanks for all the feedback and, yes, a wonderful shot of a Soft-plumaged 
Petrel, Rohan. No disputing a dark undertail there! It's a shame if Onley and 
Scofield refer to undertail coverts as undertail, especially as the Harrison 
identification guide describes these features correctly. Wondering how they 
would describe the undersides of tail feathers, I looked at a few other 
species, such as Black-browed Albatross and Blue Petrel, but as far as I can 
tell there was no mention of undertail or undertail coverts. Incidentally, 
their illustrations of pale phase Soft-plumaged Petrels show only a hint of 
pale grey on the undertail.

In the Harrison photographic guide, the Soft-plumaged Petrel shows broad white 
outer undertail feathers and a white tip to the undertail, which is otherwise 
pale grey. The White-headed Petrel appears to show a white tip to a pale grey 
undertail. The photo of the White-headed Petrel that we've been discussing 
appears to show a pale grey undertail. I'm not disputing the identity, I'm just 
struggling to appreciate how definitive one can be when viewing the undertail 
feathers shown in some photographs.

With regard to the Red or Great Knot, I'm also leaning to Jeff's Red Knot 
suggestion. After recovering from the initial impression of long bill and dark 
spotting, features such as size and jizz snap in. In fact, I "phoned a friend" 
and he suggested that the "snouty look with a thick-based straight bill" were 
good features for Red Knot. Great turn of phrase!

Maybe I should tackle Red v Great Knot for the next ID guide on my website? I 
had thought it pretty straightforward but there are obviously a few pitfalls 
out there.

Cheers - Trevor.

Trevor Ford

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