Working for birds in Africa

Semipalmated Sandpiper and Spotted Sandpiper in Morocco

p 45-46

The River Sous on Morocco's Atlantic coast just south of Agadir is an important resting place for large numbers of waders, gulls and terns, especially during the migration period. Whilst visiting the area on 5 May 1995 I found that the incoming tide was bringing large numbers of waders, particularly Calidris sandpipers in summer plumage, to gather and feed in the narrow channels adjacent to the King's palace. Given the excellent light conditions and the birds' proximity, I positioned myself slightly upstream and sat and watched as the birds filtered down toward me. These were predominantly Little Stint Calidris minuta with smaller numbers of Dunlin C, alpina and Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea.

Amongst the beautifully rich and dapper Little Stints appeared a classically 'odd' bird, roughly the same size though bulkier with a shorter primary projection and slightly heavier, blunt-tipped bill. It lacked the warm 'foxy' colouration and showed no trace of the mantle braces so evident in its congeners. The combination of structure and plumage features meant the bird had to be an adult Semipalmated Sandpiper in breeding plumage, an age with which I was unfamiliar. My experience was based on observations of first-year birds in the UK. Having been disturbed by some over zealous horse riders the bird disappeared for a short while before I found it once again feeding amongst the Little Stint and took notes.

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