Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sight record of a Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos at Bundala National Park

During a visit to the Bundala Salterns (Bundala National Park), on 29th September 2009, I observed a Pectoral Sandpiper.

There were a limited number of waders in the Bundala Salterns although the water level was low exposing a large area of mud flats. In the early morning of 29th, I decided to visit the Western end of the salterns, where I had seen a few small flocks of waders on the previous day. I observed a few of these flocks which consisted of the familiar species. While scanning with my spotting scope, I saw a larger flock of around 300 birds, at the distant corner of the salt pan. Although it was far away, I walked to the mudflat. The flock consisted of common species such as Curlew Sandpipers, Common Redshanks, Lesser Sandplovers, Kentish Plovers, Little Stints, etc. Three Great Knots which is uncommon in the area were also observed. Hence, I decided to have closer look at the flock.

I could approach to within 20m of the flock without disturbing them. I then saw a bird, which I have never seen before. Its JIZZ suggested that it was a sandpiper. It moved with the Curlew Sandpipers. The bird was slightly smaller than the Curlew Sandpipers and stayed within two feet of the shoreline. During my observations it did not leave the water.

The bill was short and slightly down curved, showing a yellowish base. The upperparts were brownish and the underparts excluding the breast were white. The upperparts and crown appeared streaky with a slightly rufous tinge. The breast was nicely streaked and the streaks stopped abruptly at the lower breast marking a sharp demarcation. Its legs were yellowish green. As the bird was new to me, I referred the field guide by John Harrison, which I had with me. The species closest in appearance of the “new” bird was the ‘Sharp-tailed Sandpiper’. However, the bird lacked the white eye-ring and prominent eye brow that widens behind the eye of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The flock was disturbed by a low-flying flock of Spot-billed Pelicans and the wader flock flew away. However, I managed to observe the bird for nearly 30 minutes and sketch it. After I reached our camp site, I referred “Shorebirds: an Identification guide to the birds of the world” by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prator. I found that the specimen was undoubtedly a Pectoral Sandpiper. One of the characteristics observed by me viz. “the streaking on the breast is sharply demarcated from the unmarked white belly, with the line of division running across the lower breast” was mentioned in this reference. Hence I identify the bird as a Pectoral Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage.

The Pectoral Sandpiper winters mainly in South America while a small population visits Australia and New Zealand. It breeds in Siberia and North America.

This species was first recorded from Sri Lanka by a group of visiting bird watchers at Weerawila in March 2002. Thereafter, to the best of my knowledge, there were no reports of this species. Hence this is probably the second record of the species from Sri Lanka.

Reported by C.D. Kaluthota

1 comment:

Gallicissa said...

Very good find. You've made me thirsty to visit Bundala now.