4th – 5th September – a difficult bird and an easy moth.   Leave a comment

Long-billed Dowitcher is a small wader than breeds along the north coast of Alaska and extreme north-east Siberia. It is a common migrant and wintering bird in the USA and has been recorded in the UK several hundred times. In the winter of 2010/11 one commuted between Lodmoor in Weymouth and Poole Park and during winter 2011/12 two were present at Lodmoor, so when Durlston on the 3rd Sep I received a text to say ‘Long-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor’ I wasn’t unduly bothered as I considering it to be one of the wintering birds returning.

Apparently late on the 3rd a message went out saying that some had queried the identification and wondered if it could be a Short-billed Dowitcher. This very similar wader breeds much further south, mainly in the Canadian prairies and migrates about a month earlier than its long-billed relative. Back on Durlston on the 4th I was asked by Shaun if I was going to see the dowitcher after the ringing session. There has only been one previous record of Short-billed in the UK and that was in Scotland. Although it breeds closer to the UK than Long-billled its earlier migration (before the autumnal storm tracks have developed) and more southerly route (which doesn’t take it out over the Atlantic) compared to Long-billed, means it is far less likely to occur over here.

News that it was still at Lodmoor didn’t come through until I was leaving Durlston so I decided to head straight for Lodmoor where the bird was showing intermittently. The key features for separating this species pair are not as you might examine, bill length, but call and in juveniles, the pattern of the tertials and greater coverts. This bird was over 100 yards away but the tertials could just be seen through a scope, they looked patterned as in Short-billed but some people had heard it call and claimed it sounded like a Long-billed.

The overall conclusion was that it was a very well-marked and very early Long-billed and I left Lodmoor believing that I had seen a scarce American migrant that I had already added to my year list, rather than a major rarity and a British tick.

Knackered after so many pre-dawn starts, I was woken about midnight by an urgent message that the bird had been conclusively identified from photographs as Short-billed. I would have set my alarm to be there at dawn but instead was able to go back to sleep well in the knowledge that I already had it ‘under the belt’.

The following five photos were taken by Kevin Lane and have been intrumental in the identificcation of this bird. The bill appears particularly long, but there is considerable overlap in this feature between the two species, the internal markings of the tertials are quite clear and the internal barring of the greater coverts can just be seen.

Back at home on the 4th I found this unusual, beautiful and large moth on the bathroom window. It is called an ‘Old Lady’ presumably because of the old lace like pattern of the wings. As it was resting on glass I couldn’t use flash and trying to move it just caused it to fly off.

Posted September 5, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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