Venus Pool - 30 Aug 17

This afternoon I paid a short visit to the SOS Reserve at Venus Pool.

Nothing special: just a good portrait view of a Grey Heron.

A group of Black-tailed Godwits. We can see that the tails are not barred as in Bar-tailed Godwit. This latter species is not so common inland and has a slightly shorter and slightly upturned bill. The birds at the front with the orange-buff wash and dark-centred feathers on the back are juveniles.

Another grouping (without the tops of Canada Geese in the way). The bills look especially long and straight here. On a Bar-tailed Godwit the supercilium would extend well behind the eye.

In this grouping (behind a Canada Goose and a Moorhen) the left front bird is showing its black tail and square white rump patch.

A Lapwing of course: but age? I think this is an adult because of the clean dark line across the cheek. The fringes on the back feathers indicate it has moulted to winter plumage – the fringes will wear off to leave it pristine-looking for displaying in the Spring. Looking up the plumage differences at various times of the year I read that it is possible to sex these birds in flight: males have broader outer-wings (the so-called ‘hand’) presumably to assist their tumbling display flight. You live and learn.

A Green Sandpiper. Only in strong light in the breeding season do these birds look ‘green’. Mostly they are just very dark on the back and, unusually and obviously in flight, also on the underwing.

Slightly larger than Common Sandpiper they lack the white extending up the side of the breast. They also ‘bob’ less persistently. When put to flight they fly off high calling rather than low across the water on ‘fluttering’ almost half-flaps. The fine spotting on the back suggests a juvenile.

They shut their eyes when putting their heads underwater!

There is another possible confusion species – Wood Sandpiper. That is uncommon in the Midlands and has more spotting on the back and the dark breast fades in to the white belly whereas the change is rather abrupt on this Green Sandpiper.

(Ed Wilson)