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Friday, February 24, 2012

Birding Victoria Part II. A sampling of shorebirds of the Southern Hemisphere.

Shorebirds are a favorite category of mine and having read in advance of some of the specialty species of the area, I quickly put Hooded Plover, Red-kneed Dotterel and Australian Pied Oystercatcher on the target list.

Werribee was our preferred destination for shorebirding and it did not disappoint. An uncommon tringa (for the area) was the Wood Sandpiper [right and upper left]. Like other tringas, the resemblance to the family is evident (compare with our yellowlegs for example). Another similarity, this time to our Pectoral Sandpiper, is its old world cousin, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper [middle and lower left].

Another visually similar sandpiper was the red-necked stint [upper right] which bears a strong resemblance to our semi-palmated sandpiper (but lacks the partially webbed feet). However, for something quite different, it was hard to beat the red-kneed dotterel [left and lower right]. These are handsome plovers, and in their breeding plumage, show very contrasting and distinctive colors. Also seen, were masked lapwing; an endemic and somewhat large shorebird with bright yellow wattles.

Perhaps the bird of the trip, for me, at least, was the hooded plover [middle and upper right]. This species is endemic to Australia, classified as Vulnerable because of a small population of 7000 that is decreasing and is highly endangered in the state of Victoria. It resembles our piping plover but with a spectacular hood and black-tipped scarlet bill. Very familiar, on the other hand, was the pied oystercatcher that is instantly recognizable as a cousin to our own.

In contrast to the dashing hooded plover, the curlew sandpiper [right and lower left] was seen in mixed flocks with some individuals showing a hint of coming into color.

The black-fronted dotterel is another attractive plover [middle and upper right] and was seen at inland freshwater. It is a common shorebird and completes the shorebird round-up of the trip.

Hooded Plover blurb at BirdLife: article

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