Thursday, February 14, 2008

Eastern Curlew and Whimbrel

Mona asked the questions "What's the best way to tell apart Whimbrel and Curlew, and where's the best place to see them?" (in comments in the last post). So I've placed a few images here to highlight the differences, largely for the benefit of those birders who spend little or no time watching waders (shame on you!). Curlew on the left, Whimbrel on the right. Looking at them the differences may seem obvious, however, in reality you'll often be watching them from a considerable distance in a heat haze, when it's more challenging. Curlews are considerably bigger, in fact the largest of our migrant waders, and the stand out is the bill length. Whimbrel are a similar size to Bar-tailed Godwit, and have their own claim to fame as having one of the most widespread distribution of any migrant wader, being found over much of the World's coastlines.
In the South of Tasmania, Eastern Curlew are found during the Summer months, in the Orielton Lagoon, Barilla Bay, Sorell and Five Mile Beach areas. (In the North, the Tamar River in the vicinity of Georgetown is a good spot for both species). Presently there's a flock of around 70 or 80 birds, frequenting the southern areas I've mentioned . A few may overwinter. Whimbrels are a lot thinner on the ground, but occasionally consort with the curlews, notably in Orielton Lagoon. One has been present in Ralph's Bay for many months and is easiest seen there at high tide on the Lauderdale spit, usually roosting with a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. You might be lucky and find the curlew there too, as mentioned in the previous post.
Once you've found a few of both, I think you'll have little problems in IDing them.
[NB. Please approach roosting waders with care. Undue disturbance, particularly at this time of year, while they're putting on fat to enable them to safely make the return journey to their breeding grounds, should be avoided.]

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