Pectoral Sandpiper, another rare visitor for the Black Sea coast

On 6 October 2012, at 11:25 AM, during a routine survey to explore some of the birding locations along the Romanian Black Sea coast, we made a short stop at the brackish lagoons of Histria in the southern part of the Danube Delta (some 100 km North from the Branta Birding Lodge). The weather was warm and sunny (c. +27 C).

Suddenly I spotted a group of three quite odd Sandpipers feeding in shallow water and on the mud flats situated on the western shore of the lake Istria.

I immediately noticed that the birds had a small-headed/large-bodied look, similar to that of the Ruff, which is larger and taller. Their size was comparable to that of Wood Sandpiper, but the upperparts were not densely spotted with white and had scaly pattern with conspicuous white stripes and longer dark primary projections comparing to that of Ruff or Dunlin. The fatter neck and slightly curved bill seemed shorter compared to that of Wood Sandpiper, the pale yellowish-green legs appeared shorter than on Wood Sandpiper but longer comparing to that of Dunlin or Curlew Sandpipers.

The creamy-whitish supercilium, and especially the distinctive breast pattern featuring sharply demarcated gorget of streaks contrasting with unmarked whitish belly were the most evident pro-Pectoral Sandpiper features. Tail and uppertail-coverts were dark in flight showing two obvious white tail patches. The birds were quite shy and nervous, comparing to other waders, flying away when approached by people and often taking off due to traffic noise around. Birds were very silent, except the one or two short notes when flying off (trr - tirrt).

In the light of all the above features it was already clear that I had observed three Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos). The fresh plumage and warm tones, especially on the crown and the conspicuous white stripes on the upperparts, suggested the birds are juveniles.

Subsequently the birds were also observed by Strahil Peev, Nikolay Vekov and Dimitar Jelyazkov in excellent morning light conditions, at very close range and using Swarovski Optik equipment and the attached picture was taken to confirm identification.

All participants agreed that without any doubt they observed three juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers.

Pavel Simeonov - Branta Tours

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