Monday, February 4, 2013

Greater Sand Plover


     The Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) is a small wader in the plover family of birds. The spelling is commonly given as "Greater Sandplover", but the official British Ornithologists' Union spelling is "Greater Sand Plover".This chunky plover is long-legged and thick-billed. Breeding males have grey backs and white underparts. The breast, forehead and nape are chestnut, and there is a black eye mask. The female is duller, and winter and juvenile birds lack the chestnut, apart from a hint of rufous on the head. Legs are greenish and the bill black.

Behavior, feeding and habitat

     It breeds in the semi-deserts of Turkey and eastwards through Central Asia. It nests in a bare ground scrape. This species is strongly migratory, wintering on sandy beaches in eastAfrica, south Asia and Australasia. It is a rare vagrant in western Europe, where it has been recorded as far west as Great BritainFrance and Iceland. It has been spotted twice in theWestern Hemisphere, the most recent being on May 14, 2009, in JacksonvilleFlorida.There are three subspecies: The nominateC. l. columbinus and C. l. scythicus. The last was known as C. l. crassirostris until it was established that this name is pre-occupied by a subspecies of Wilson's PloverC. w. crassirostris.

    In all plumages, it is very similar to Lesser Sand PloverCharadrius mongolus. Separating the species may be straightforward in mixed wintering flocks on an Indian beach, where the difference in size and structure is obvious; it is another thing altogether to identify a lone vagrant to western Europe, where both species are very rare. The problem is compounded in that the Middle Eastern race of the greater sand plover is the most similar to the lesser species.Its food consists of insectscrustaceans and annelid worms, which are obtained by a run-and-pause technique, rather than the steady probing of some other wader groups.Its flight call is a soft trill.Its scientific name commemorates the French botanist Jean Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour.The Greater Sand Plover is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

      It was a great experience watching Sand plovers in the estuary and beach area, where many of them gather around like a colony and indulge themselves busily feeding on crabs, on low-tide times. I am extremely lucky to find this sand plover coming too close, while me and my two birding friends Ajith Kamath and Ranaganath Bhat were more than surprised to see them this close. I was hand-holding a Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM with a Tamron 1.4x extender, mounted on a Canon EOS 7D, whereby, the sand plovers were too much close to us that it was difficult to focus them, with our lenses. This is a great example where our "Patience" plays a key role in birding.

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