It’s been a while I posted anything here but there was no time for birdwatching in the last few months. Earlier this week a Hungarian birdwatcher, Attila Simay, surprised me by his temporary move to England. He planned to visit a coastal site where a ‘Hudsonian‘ Whimbrel had been reported. The bird was first found on 9 June 2015 on the mudflat of Pagham Harbour at Church Norton in West Sussex. ‘Hudsonian‘ Whimbrel is a subspecies of ‘Eurasian‘ Whimbrel breeding on the North American Arctic. The British Ornithologists’ Union has already elevated Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus to species level.
This bird have regularly been seen since then on the same spot by hundreds of birdwatchers and twitchers and we hoped we can also be among the lucky ones.
Upon arrival it started to drizzle but it didn’t last long so we could explore the area. We spotted a few Whimbrels alongside Eurasian Curlews but none of the bird seemed to be special until I became suspicious about one bird. It was obviously different even on the ground. As it was walking next to another Whimbrel we could compare them. The longer we watched the feeding birds, the more obvious the differences became. At that point we were 99% certain about our bird being a ‘Hudsonian‘ Whimbrel. Here are the main differences we could see, but that doesn’t mean these are the key characteristics in separation of two subspecies:
Size: ‘Hudsonian‘ looked well built and slightly larger than the ‘Eurasian‘ Whimbrel. It also could be a reason of sex difference.
Colours: ‘Hudsonian‘ was obviously tawny toned in general and wasn’t any close in colouration to the overall greyish ‘Eurasian‘.
Head markings: ‘Hudsonian’s eyebrow and crown stripe was broad and clear white in prominent contrast with the dark eye stripe and brown cap. The same parts in ‘Eurasian‘ Whimbrel looked diffused greyish with dirty creamy tones without any sharp or contrasty separation around the stripes. Crown stipe was narrow and inprominent in ‘European‘.
Bill: ‘Hudsonian‘ had Eurasian Curlew-like long and massive bill. It seemed to be darker then the ‘Eurasian‘ Whimbrel’s, but the length was the most considerable difference. This, however, could also be sex-related issue.
Until the ‘Hudsonian‘ took off we were not entirely sure about the identification, but we always kept our eye on the bird in question and ignored watching the other one. Right after it took flight the all brown rump and back without any white colouration became obvious making us feeling proud about being able to separate this bird on the ground. Not everyday one has a chance to see both subspecies side by side.
To celebrate this Western Palearctic tick we decided to move over another place where another long staying ‘yankee’ shorebird has been present for months. A Greater Yellowlegs was on the pond of Titchfield Haven NNR right next to Cliff Road. Wind was shaking us but we had perfect view on this summer plumaged bird. Unfortunately, a group of idiots released 4 colourful balloons straight over the pond, which were pushed down by the stormy wind towards the feeding birds. All birds flew off and we couldn’t relocate the yellowlegs again.
Now, the weekend is over and it’s time to run another tough week at work.