Grey-tailed Tattler  no ordinary call

In the morning of Wednesday 28 july 2010, Arno Piek heard an unknown wader calling at the South Pier near IJmuiden. While recovering from a mild concussion, he had left his binoculars at home and carried just a camera and a field guide. From a distance of c 15 m he observed the bird for c 20 minutes and took six photographs. Confused, because none of the species in his guide matched, he returned home.

That afternoon I received an e-mail from him, asking me for help with the identification of the mystery bird. The moment I opened the attached photo my heart skipped a beat; I knew I was looking at a tattler! Immediately I alerted other birders and ran out of the house. The rest of the day I tried to relocate the bird, together with plenty of other birders, but unfortunately it had moved on. Arno’s photographs and description confirmed that it was a Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes – a Siberian species that had never been seen before in the Netherlands (Piek & Slaterus 2010). Wandering Tattler T incanus was excluded by for example the largely white and unmarked underparts (including vent and undertail-coverts), the long and conspicuous supercilium, white barring on the uppertail-coverts and the bicoloured bill.

Although lightning never strikes the same place twice, I want to be sure I will recognise a Grey-tailed Tattler when I hear one. To me, the most useful call type seems to be a plover-like whistle (dee-deetwee-dee-dee…). Based on Arno’s description, this is also what drew his attention to the IJmuiden bird. Because not much about this call really stands out, it could easily be ignored as just another wader’s call. Probably, only the lucky and the very keen will pick it out. But that does not put me off!

Arriving a little too late...

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Published 1 August 2018