Saturday 3 May 2014

The Madness Continues

Around 7am today Bruce Mactavish and Ken Knowles found a Common Redshank in Renews. The same location of the Common Shelduck one month ago, 2 Black-tailed Godwits last week, and several European Golden-Plovers that continue to be seen every day.

This is the 7th individual Common Redshank for Newfoundland. 4 were seen during a similar event in the spring of 1995, and another was seen in 1999. The ones in 1995 were the first North American records. I'm not sure if there have been any outside of Newfoundland since then?

The European Golden-Plovers in Renews were particularly tame today:

Female European Golden-Plover:

And the highlight for me was at Cape Spear in the early afternoon. Lancy and I were scouring the cape for a Eurasian Whimbrel (!!!) that was found earlier in the day. We decided to divide and conquer to improve our chances of re-finding it. I got a call from Lancy and despite the poor reception and wind I could barely hear him say "small sandpiper"... my mind was racing!!! First thoughts involved the 3 species of stint...

By the time I got to him he had identified it as a Dunlin. But I knew that the European subspecies was distinct from the North American one and probably more likely considering what has been happening this past week. We studied the bird and took our pictures and went to find Anne & Todd (who we were birding with today) and tried re-finding the Dunlin without any luck. We decided to leave Cape Spear without seeing it again, but I just got word from Peter Shelton (another local birder) that he re-found the Dunlin (5pm).

I've since studied up on the different Dunlin subspecies and I am fairly confident this one is a member of the schinzii subpecies. It has a small and relatively straight bill compared to the nominate hudsonia subspecies of North America. It also has slightly more streaking on the upper breast, and the black underbelly is not pure black, and the scapulars are a duller brown than what would be expected for the hudsonia subspecies.

Here's a photo from Lancy showing the black underbelly a little better:

The real problem is separating the arctica and schinzii subspecies. The schinzii subspecies breeds in Iceland & Southern Greenland. While the arctica subspecies breeds in North America. There are multiple records of "greenland" subspecies Dunlin for North America but I believe they are all of the Northern Greenland breeding subspecies (arctica).

I think the arctica subspecies can be ruled out by the fact that this bird has more black on the underbelly than would be expected for that subspecies.

I need to do more research on these subspecies. But I also need to go birding and do a million other things. So I'm going to leave this one at that for now, except to say that I don't think the schinzii subspecies has been documented in North America before and that that subspecies is probably the most likely one to arrive in Newfoundland right now considering that their peak migration is now and they breed in Southern Greenland...

What are your thoughts on this Dunlin? Comment below or email me at:
alvanbuckley AT