Sunday, April 08, 2007

2nd April: Bagan Tambang high tide roost

From the rice fields I went to the mudflats, where the tide was rising fast. There were roughly 7,000 shorebirds gathered at the roost site, not the most I've seen there, but an impressive spectacle nevertheless.

A carpet of birds. Part of the roosting flock, which comprised mostly Sand Plovers, with a supporting cast of Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, and the odd Terek Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone here and there.

A few Lesser Sand Plovers are coming into breeding dress, while almost all the Greater Sand Plovers (one bird is at the back of this flock) have been in summer plumage for some weeks already. Chestnut brown through brick red to orange is the preferred colour scheme for most calidrid sandpipers and Charadrius plovers in breeding plumage.

Organized chaos! It's easy to see how flocking together is an effective strategy for confusing predators, making it very difficult to focus on one bird. On the other hand, it must require considerable aeronautical skill and coordination to avoid mid-air collisions - something I've never seen in all my years wader-watching.

Flaming beauty! This breeding plumage Little Stint really stood out from the crowd in its rich chestnut and black colours. Red-necked Stints can show very bright chestnut fringes to the scapulars and one or two tertials, but these always contrast with greyish wing coverts, whereas on Little, the chestnut colouration extends to the wing coverts. Red-necked Stints also tend to show a rather greyish nape and crown, whereas breeding Little has a chestnut crown and nape. The split supercilium, streaked breastband and unmarked white throat are good confirming features of Little Stint. Even these poor photos show the rounder body shape and smaller headed, less bull-necked appearance of Little compared to Red-necked (immediately to the left).

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