Sunday, 18 August 2013

LARGE Brown Jobs (LBJs)

3rd August 2013

We are all familiar with LBJs (Little Brown Jobs), which are the curse of newcomers to birding. Even the more experienced birders find them frustrating at times. But what is not always recognised is that some of the LARGE Brown Jobs can be equally problematical. Andy Johnson and I were still at Abberton when I started to use the scope to sift through the dabbling duck feeding in the muddy margins.Apart from the usual suspects there were a few Teal starting to return from their breeding grounds, although at this time of the year they are all in their brown eclipse plumage.

I studied the face pattern of each one carefully and eventually found what I was looking for, a Garganey. Garganey in eclipse are virtually identical to Teal but lack the cream horizontal bar above the tail and have a rather indistinct facial pattern which looks like a double eye-stripe. The third in-flight photo shows the brown belly and the lack of grey on the lesser and median coverts which was sufficient to allow plumage expert Alan Harris to age and sex this bird as a juvenile female. What a good start.

We then went on to Fingringhoe in the hope of photographing some passerines flitting around in the bushes, but all was quiet. So instead we moved on to the Geedon Bay hide to have a look over the estuary. The tide was not only a fair way out but was still going out, so all the waders were very distant. Most appeared to be Redshank with a few Oystercatcher, but at that point something disturbed a flock of Curlew from the saltmarsh and they flew to the edge of the channel. Except one, that is, which landed on the mud about 50 yards away.

A quick look through the bins was enough to arouse my suspicions, but it took enlarging a few shots of the bird to confirm that this was indeed a Whimbrel. Whimbrel are slightly smaller than Curlew but that is very subjective, especially when looking at single birds. They also have a much shorter bill, which can also be tricky, but the most reliable differentiator is the creamy stripe down the centre of the crown. The flight call is also very different but not much use when they are on the ground.

So there we have it. Two Large Brown Jobs, both bigger than 10 inches long, and both easily over-looked.

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