The Greater Sandplover

Kris K. Carter <kkcarter@...>

Hello All:

Here is my attempt to clarify information on this bird. Yes this is the first
record of this bird in No. America, hence it does not appear and is not mentioned
in any American Field Guide so far as I know. The best reference is Hayman et al:
Shorebirds: An Identification Guide. In this book p.108 is devoted to the Lesser
and Greater Sandplovers, you should concentrate on illustration 108d, this is
closest to the Stinson Beach bird. When first discovered there was a lot of
discussion about whether this bird was a greater or lesser Sandplover. We in the
United States know the Lesser Sandplover as the Mongolian Plover, a rare visitor
to the west coast. The last one I know of was the bird seen by many of us at the
WFO conference in Arcata, fall 1998. Hayman contains a discussion of the
differences between these two species, see the chart on p. 393. The Stinson Beach
GSP has the very long legs (for a plover), and they are greenish, not gray or
brownish. The bill is very long and thick (for any plover), clearly longer than
the distance from the base of the bill to the back of the eye. These two features
alone define this bird to be a GSP, but there is more to look at if you wish, see
Hayman. If you lack access to any reference books you might think like this: it is
a small bird, just a bit larger than a Semipalmated Plover. Think of a Snowy
Plover, then eliminate the white hind collar, make the back and neck all brown.
Extend the legs by about one third, color them greenish. Triple the length of the
bill, double the thickness. Now imagine it somewhat larger, and you will be close
to the image you need. When the bird is standing in soft mud the legs do not look
as long as they actually are.

When I went to see the bird I did just what Jerry White posted, I planned to be
there shortly after a morning high tide, and I enjoyed wonderful close scoped
views of the bird. You do need a scope to see the detail. While you are there note
that there has been a Cape May Warbler in this same subdivision, a first winter
male currently molting into breeding plumage. It visits the bottlebrush plants in
the front yard of home #303, near the junction of the two main roads at the west
end of the subdivision. Good Luck.

Richard Irvin