Possible Short-billed Dowitcher at Manly SE QLD

Subject: Possible Short-billed Dowitcher at Manly SE QLD
From: knightl <>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 2004 16:54:58 +1000
The prospect of twitching an uncommon bird is one thing that brings birders together in the field.

Last weekend I was poking around the Manly wader roost checking out the red knots that had been reported there by Colin Reid, when I photographed an unusual looking bird halfway along the main, "moat" encircled roost.

It was standing in the water [about 1 cm below its belly]. It was about the same distance from the camera, and apparently slightly smaller in size as a tattler. It had a distinctly long [50% longer than the tattler] dark coloured bill - straight for the bulk of its length, with a hint of a downwards bend at the end. Overall it had an appearance that led me [as someone who has never identified one in the field] to think "gee, that looks like a small dowitcher".

I ventured back to the wader roost this morning to see if I could refind the bird. The conditions were not helpful. The high tide in my window of opportunity was about 5.30 am, so I was there soon after dawn. There had been significant rainfall, the sky was dark, there were occasional showers and most of the birds were sleeping in [it is not easy to ID birds when their heads tucked in]. They were also a bit flighty, so I ended up creeping along the outside of the rockwall to reach a good vantage point.

While I was sitting on the outside of the wall, where I was 80% out of sight from the roost, I wound up with an audience of mixed waders. Just as a herd of curious cattle will approach a pedestrian, a flock of tattlers, turnstones, tericks and stints settled near my position. They would approach to within 5-10 metres, then jump back a bit. Seen up close, the tattlers had a different jizz to that apparent through the nockers - they had a crake/rail like presence when running about. I got some good close up shots of the tattlers, including a couple of speckly immatures.

Tom Tarrant and Paul Walbridge arrived around 7.30 am and had about 15 minutes to survey the assembled birds before 95% of the birds just up and departed [exit stage left]. Obviously, the birds have some mechanism for picking the optimal time to leave the roost on the falling tide.

It may well be that the bird in question is an "american" dowitcher as Mike has hypothesised, or it may turn out to be an anomalous specimen of another species. It would be good if someone else is able to find and photograph/identify the individual, but the bird may prove to be one of those enigmatic characters that ghosts away like a cheshire cat - providing an interesting but unresolved puzzle.

Regards, Laurie.

On Sunday, November 7, 2004, at 04:21  PM, Mike Carter wrote:

Have just been sent a shot of a wader seen last weekend at Manly near
Brisbane by Laurie Knight. It looks to me like one of the American
Dowitchers in non-breeding plumage. Has anyone else seen it? As Short-billed and Long-billed are EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to separate, if anyone does see it,
take lots of photos and a fully detailed description of plumage and

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136

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