Report on the sighting of Bairds Sandpiper Calidris bairdii at Derby, WA
24 September 2000
On the morning of the 24 September 2000 I visited
the Derby Sewage Treatment Works with three birding clients : Alison McKenzie,
Rosemary Ryan (ACT) and Lyn Watson (UK). This was my third visit to the STW
on this excursion to the North West, having visited on the 16th and 23rd September.
We had been there for about an hour viewing
various birds Little Curlew (100s), Wood Sandpiper (c20), Common Sandpiper
(c3), Marsh Sandpiper (c30), Australian Pratincole (c6), Greenshank (c3),
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (c10), Curlew Sandpiper (c20) and Red-necked Stint
We moved to the rear of a large shallow mudflat
to search for Long-toed Stint. I had seen several on my 16 September visit.
After scanning through the waders for a short time we located a Ruff feeding
with the sandpipers. I am familiar with that species having seen it on many
occasions near Deniliquin (NSW) and various other locations including Swan
Hill (Vic) and near Wyndham (WA).
We continued scanning through the waders. A
small wader feeding with a group of three Curlew Sandpipers fixed our attention.
The bird was about half to two-thirds the size of the Curlew Sandpipers and
very heavily scalloped on the back, the black bill appeared to be straight,
thin and about one and a half times the length of the head. I realised immediately
that this was something unusual as it was too large and too heavily scalloped
on the back for a Red-necked Stint and the bill was too long. It was also
too large and paler than a Long-toed Stint another species I have seen
regularly at Tullakool and elsewhere. Two species came immediately to mind
White-rumped and Bairds Sandpipers. I had seen White-rumped Sandpiper
at the Tullakool Evaporative Basin (NSW) in 1987 and did not believe that
that was the species in the scope.
We moved in closer and circled around to obtain
better views and to improve the light. We got to within 20 metres and studied
the bird for about 10-15 minutes through a 20x Kowa Prominar scope. At this
point we noticed that the same bird was being viewed by two local birders
with scopes on the other side of the pond Pam Masters and Lou Leidwinger
These were the identifying features: long wings
with dark tips projecting beyond the tail; the back was fairly brown and heavily
scalloped; the breast was buff with no obvious streaking ; a pale eyebrow;
the legs were shortish and dark in colour; in flight the bird had a dark central
patch down the rump with white at the sides and there was a white stripe in
The birds eventually became restless and flew
to the other side of the pond.
My group and I moved around to the other side
of the pond to confer with the other two birders. They had been puzzled as
to the birds identification but when I suggested Bairds Sandpiper,
Lou agreed immediately; it is a species that he is familiar with, hailing
as he does from the USA. His initial puzzlement stemmed from not considering
the possibility of a Bairds Sandpiper occurring in Australia.
We all went around to the other side of the
ponds to obtain further views but the bird had landed behind a line of cumbungi.
Had I been alone I would not have hesitated wading out but as my troops were
growing restless and we had a plane to catch later that day in Broome I thought
it prudent to leave.
After consulting various references on our
return to our respective homes, Lou and I agreed that the bird was an immature
Bairds Sandpiper due to lack of streaking on the breast. The possibility
of Sanderling was discounted given the bird was smaller and far too heavily
scalloped on the back.
The ponds were searched over the next days and weeks by Lou and Pam and others but the bird was not located again.