Happy New Year everyone! The sixth Mystery Bird turned out to be the hardest callenge yet - with only 5 correct answers from 21 attempts.
So, what we were faced with was a wader roosting with Wrybill. It is a fairly plainly marked bird and roughly the same size as Wrybill. Size is important - just how big is this bird? To my mind it looks to have about the same bulk as a Wrybill, and be about the same body length, but hang on a bit - it is standing much taller than the Wrybill around it........oh, look! It has long, black, spindly legs.....
Many of you thought that this was either a Pectoral or a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I'm sorry but it just isnt. The upperparts feathers of both species have broad pale fringes, often with bright buff, chestnut or white in them - giving an almost tortoiseshell look. Both species have a darker crown (Sharpies look particularly capped) - even if this bird has a slightly darker crown it isnt enough. The legs of both are greenish or yellowish, and they are much shorter this this appears to be.
Could it be a Dunlin then? Well it sort of could, except for a couple of fairly subtle pointers. Non-breeding Dunlin doesnt show a supercillium like this bird, and the proportions are wrong. Again, those long legs get in the way of that identification.
It isnt a Pacific Golden Plover or anything bigger, and it isnt a Red Knot, though much like the Dunlin argument it sort of could be, if it were not for the overall shape, size and proportions. It isnt easy to get jizz from a still photo, but this bird does exhibit the jizz of its species to me.
It is a CURLEW SANDPIPER. Everything works in terms of plumage and shape and size - it even has a little blob of breeding red on the breast. The long, skinny, dark legs are absolutely correct - and dont actually fit for any other species.
It doesn't really help the identification very much, but Curlew Sands often seem to associate and roost with Wrybill, while Sharpies and Pecs rarely do.
Just 2 entrants now have all 6 answers correct - Tony Wilson and Igor Debski, but there are another 2 with 5 correct, and we are only at the half-way point, so anything could happen! Good luck to you all next time and thanks for supporting the competition.
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- Neil Fitzgerald
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