Thursday, October 8, 1998

Two Rare Migrants: Lesser Black-backed Gull and Long-billed Curlew

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen among the gulls at the mouth of the Matasnillo River, Paitilla. Later that day, two Long-billed Curlews were seen in the ponds by the sea at Costa del Este.
A larger gull was seen among the Laughing Gulls on the sand by the mouth of the Matasnillo River, Paitilla, on high tide, october 8. Its head was white with buffy speckles, showing it was an adult in winter plumage. The speckling was especially evident in the area around the eye, the iris was pale yellow. Its bill was bright yellow with an evident red spot in the lower mandible. Its back and wings were slaty-gray, much darker than those of a (typical) Ring-billed or Herring Gull. We were not able to distinguish any white mirrors on the tips of the primaries.
Then, at 5:30 P.M. at Costa del Este, Rosabel noticed a huge Whimbrel in a large flock of migratory shorebirds on one of the ponds by the seashore. The bird and another one like it took flight but landed nearby. After that only one could be found again. Comparing it with the numerous Whimbrels all around it was evident that this was a larger bird. Overall, its plumage was not the dull brown of a Whimbrel, but a richer tone of buff, turning bright cinnammon in the belly. It looked more like a Marbled Godwit (of which many individuals were also present) but was even larger than that. Plus, it also showed a bicolored bill, as the base of the lower mandible was a bright pink tone, only the whole bill was extremely long and downcurved. This bird had no discernible pattern in the face, nor any stripes in the crown like all Whimbrels do. Even though the birds were seen in flight (the two individuals) we did not notice the cinnammon underwing coverts, but considering all the other relevant fieldmarks that were observed, are very confident of our diagnosis.

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