Hello Harvey and all,
Interesting that the old chestnut of distinguishing Lessers from Greaters is
still alive and even now there seems to have been some confusion by those
visiting Lake Wollumboola recently, including by me! I spent some time
photographing what I thought were a couple of Greater Sand Plovers feeding - I
was more interested in what they were doing rather than simply what they were.
Unlike most of the other waders, they were feeding on the edge of the sandbank
in the damp sand, pulling out tiny worms and it took me quite a few exposures
until I timed it right to get the bird stretching the worm from the sand. Not
until I got the pictures home and looked carefully did I realise that the
birds were Lessers.
Regarding identification, I remember it being discussed at one of the NSW
group meetings held at The Australian Museum back in the 1950s! If I remember
correctly the various differences were pointed out and it was agreed that most
observations in Australia can be correctly attributed, BUT as with virtually
all birds, there is a range of measurements and an extremely large Lesser is
not easy to tell from a small Greater, except by an expert (or a specimen!!).
As a result of all this, I've loaded up some comparative head studies under
Greater Sand Plover (page 3) on my website.
Another interesting fact emerged from my photography - I caught the
White-rumped Sandpiper doing a wing-stretch and on the left wing at least, the
innnermost three or four primaries are worn away to almost nothing, so this
little fella will have to eat up big and have a decent moult to sustain the big
flight to Asia. Unfortunately, this very public area means that the birds are
disturbed quite a lot.
I tried to ascertain what the bird was eating without any success. It fed
always in shallow water on what appeared to be small, almost spherical
translucent objects. Again, pics on my website, a few Broad-billed as well.
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