Sunday, November 14, 2010

Counting Shorebirds

All the shorebird roosts that we monitor and count present challenges but one of the most challenging is the one we call the Airport Roost. It is a sandbank with mangroves growing on both sides of it. I have kayaked in to the side closest to the land but I have never managed to get out there without disturbing some of the birds into flying off. On the other side you must sit in the kayak and count from there. You can come in close enough to see the birds fairly clearly.

However, Terek Sandpipers and Grey-tailed Tattlers use this roost. They roost on the sand, on exposed mangrove roots and in the open branches depending on the tide height. Terek Sandpipers and Grey-tailed Tattlers are easy to distinguish if they have their heads up - the Terek Sandpiper has a bill that turns up slightly and the Grey-tailed Tattler has a straight bill. There is a also a difference in the color around the eye. When they are roosting with their heads tucked under their wings it is much more difficult. The Terek Sandpiper has darker orange colored legs, but this is hard to see at a distance with only binoculars. In this photo two Grey-tailed Tattlers have their heads up. There is a Terek Sandpiper on the right of the photo - and the others I am not sure of!
Now, spot the different bird in this photo!
There is a Pacific Golden Plover on the left of the photo. This is the only time I have seen a Pacific Golden Plover roosting in a tree. There were other Pacific Golden Plovers there as well but they were all on the sand.
For more bird photos visit the Bird Photography Weekly.


  1. Those Pacific Golden Plover sure do make their way around the world, don't they?

    Nice post and photos Mick!

  2. I can see your dilemma Mick. I imagine a scope might come in handy for that task.

    Great shots of the roost and the birds. The blue legs on the Pacific Golden Plovers sure stand out don't they? Beautiful!

  3. Thanks Birding is Fun. I am always amazed at the distances all the shorebirds fly to get here.

    Hi Larry, it's not possible to put up a scope - the water is too deep and the birds would be off long before I could get it set up. They react to any noise which is not usual to their environment. I have to open the clasps on the camera case well out from the shoreline and then sit still and let the tide drift me in and along past the roost.

  4. You have so many of them. I envy you. I have to go across half of Sweden in summertime to see any waders at all. And I like them. Great shots.

  5. Thanks NatureFootstep - The Great Sandy Strait is a Ramsar listed wetland so we should see lots of waders in this area.

  6. Hi Mick.
    Nice wader shots.
    I agree it is unusual that your Golden Plover has parked on the Mangrove roots.
    I find it fascinating that birding/blogging/kayakers can find eachother via the Internet.
    I went Orchid hunting on the weekend and remembered to take several "habitat" shots - for you.

  7. Great ID assistance; thanks for sharing your knowledge Mick. I have,in the past, seen all these species on sand banks on the lower reaches of the Daintree River but it took me ages to try and identify them! And I've never seen these birds roosting - the only way I could identify the Terek Sandpipers was from the slightly upturned bill and that manic feeding habit they have. I think I'll make some extra notes in my bird book now.

  8. Hi Denis, I wonder if shorebirds learn from other shorebirds or if that is too fanciful? Last year there was only one Pacific Golden Plover on that site that associated with the other tree roosting birds. So could it be learned behavior?
    I look forward to your next post about orchids and the habitat shots as well!

  9. Thanks Barbara. It took me ages - and photos taken over some months - to sort out what I was seeing in that tree roost. I find it interesting that two such similar looking species 'hang out' together. btw - I don't think I have ever seen Terek Sandpipers feeding out on the sand flats!

  10. ...what a beautiful photo of the birds all resting on the roots. I really like those blue legs, too...another bird I've never seen.