Isabella Pond and Lake Tuggeranong - Observations of Common Sandpipers

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Subject: Isabella Pond and Lake Tuggeranong - Observations of Common Sandpipers
From: Archer Callaway via Canberrabirds <>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 11:38:11 +0000
The well known Common Sandpiper at Isabella Pond has been reliable at the site for 3 summers (2019-20, 20-21, 21-).

The first record of a Common Sandpiper at the northern end of Lake Tuggeranong 3kms away, was reported to ebird in April this year by Garry and Suzanne Bluff, a few days after the final Isabella report of the season. I personally didn't think much of it, assuming it was the Isabella bird on its migration. However, it was reported again from one of the nearby islands by Rod and Deb Ralph, on 23 Aug. 
I have since made 2 visits to Lake Tuggeranong and have seen it in the same drain as the April report both times. On the 29th, I saw the bird 3 hours after Rod and Deb saw one at Isabella. Today, I visited both sites one immediately after the other, and got the Isabella bird in its usual spot at 6:20pm and the Tuggeranong bird at 6:48pm.

We have closely compared photos of the Isabella and Tuggeranong birds and we have not been able to find any plumage differences between the birds, which I would have expected given how patchy their plumage is. However, given its reliability at both sites and the high level of site faithfulness (we have seen this with the Isabella bird between seasons, and where it frequents within the wetland - even with its usual spot currently completely flooded, it was still there in the grass immediately adjacent), combined with these near-simultaneous sightings, I think we can pretty confidently say that they are 2 distinct birds. I would also suggest that the Lake Tuggeranong bird is now in its second season at least, based on the April report and what we have seen with the Isabella bird leaving over winter, and returning to the same spot each summer. Lake Tuggeranong is sparsely birded, and has more area to cover, so it is not surprising that it had been missed. 

Both locations are extremely similar stormwater inlets into larger lakes, with a silt trap and a rectangular concrete pool. I'm sure there are more of the same elsewhere around Canberra, which may be worth keeping an eye on. It will be interesting to continue to monitor the both birds, which will hopefully continue to return.


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