Sunday, 7 May 2017

Pectoral Sandpiper

I thought this weekend was looking set to be a total write-off and things did seem to be heading in that direction Saturday, with nothing in my woodlot followed by a near punch-up with a fish pond moron en route home (and I suppose the less said about that, the better). I tried to turn a non-singing first-summer Cuculus SP. into a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus for a while (based on a fairly pale orange iris and greyish-looking bars from some angles), but the under-primary coverts were visible on the drooped wing and these did not appear to be sufficiently barred for that form (so it has to go down as just another Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus).

There were a few Arctic Warbler-types hanging around Saturday, all of them fresh-looking so new arrivals. Only one would call at any given time, and the only call heard was the usual high-pitched 'dzik' of borealis. I used to think that traces of yellow below might be helpful in picking out a xanthodryas, but now assume this kind of feature to be of no practical use whatsoever!

I got so bored in the afternoon that I beat a retreat back to my small stream in Xin Hua in the hope of one or two new dragonflies for the year. Given the complete absence of rain over the last few days, this really didn't make much sense, and once more it was pretty much all Lineated Orange Jewels Libellago lineata and Orange-backed Threadtails Prodasineura croconota, though this time there was the added 'bonus' of a female Crimson Dropwing Trithemis aurora (a species which will become nothing short of abundant following the first decent downpour).

Things looked like they were set to get worse Sunday, with nothing in my woodlot except for one Da Chiao Lin! He was at a loose end during the morning, but had plans to retwitch a summer Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos in Pingtung County he had been for the previous evening in order to get better photographs of it in softer afternoon light. As I thought this bird might be able to salvage the weekend, I was more than grateful when the lift was offered, and an hour or so later was in Pingtung County looking at a beautifully-plumaged adult summer Pectoral Sandpiper!

We had the bird in view for about half an hour and down to ten metres at one point, but it was rather flighty and changed location frequently (though we always picked it up on its own and at very close range). Still, it did stay put for long enough to get some nice shots before quite unexpectedly disappearing completely! Perhaps more astonishingly, the people who had been present on site when we arrived had quite comically failed to see it; this despite the bird preferring areas within twenty metres or so away from all the cars! There were at least consolations on offer for those that dipped in the form of three very confiding Little Curlews Numenius minutus. Despite having seen plenty of these this spring, I had not managed to get the kind of photos I had wanted of them up to this point. Well, the individual below was sufficiently confiding to lay that bugbear to rest!

In the end, it proved to be a weekend with everything really: misery and joy; aggression and comedy. Arguably one for the scrapbook rather than the trash can! Above photos taken in Qi Gu and Xin Hua, Tainan County, and Nanzhou, Pingtung County 6-7/5/17.

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