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Friday, June 15, 2012

ID of the Whimbrel

I received a message late last night asking if the bill length of yesterday's Whimbrel seen in this shot:

wasn't in fact suggestive of Long-billed Curlew (LBCU). I wasn't sure what to make of this, as the bird repeatedly appeared to have strong lateral crown stripes and to lack buffy tones to the body (esp. the underparts) yesterday. However that suggestion gave me enough pause to put some more thought into the matter. An additional photograph that had me wondering was this one:

which sure seems to show a thin bill tip (not the relatively thick bill I am used to on WHIM). But the issue was just how much uncertainty was injected into this entire discussion by the heat waves and extreme distance that the videos/photos were taken in. Heck, in the second photo above the bird appears to lack head stripes altogether! So, could any of these photographic artefacts be trusted?

I returned early this morning, hoping to see the bird again. This time, I utilized my connections with the airport police to request permission to view from beside the terminal itself, which they obliged me on (thankfully). Also thankfully, the bird was still present, and the early morning coolness prevented heat wave distortion. The bird was much closer to me, and I finally saw it in flight, and the ID is confirmed as Whimbrel beyond any doubt. The bird completely lacks any buffy tones in the spread wings, and has pronounced lateral crown stripes, and just isn't large enough for Long-billed Curlew. These are the best two videos from this morning:

The bird should still be visible from the s. Kraft Ave overlook, however at 8:20AM this morning it flew NE out of sight, and may have returned to the 2nd location in yesterday's blog post. So patience may be required. I also would not recommend trying to view from the terminal without contacting airport police ahead of time- you would be getting a lot of unwanted attention from the many security personnel and suspicious passengers, etc.

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