Unearthed from August 2000
Itai Shanni and Martin G.
Following the wrestles with the very recent Lesser Sand Plover in Israel, Itai Shanni dug out an old slide. Looks like a first for Israel!
Itai wrote: “See attached the photo that I took on 10th Aug 2000 at K20 next to Eilat (just before I left the country).”
MG’s response to photo:
“I have had time to read your email and digest the content this am a bit more. I have also followed up on my impressions of your photo.
From what I can see I am quite convinced this is a Mongolian (mongulus/ stegmanii) as opposed to Lesser Sand Plover (atrifrons group).
First of all I read the date you saw it- so clearly much more pro Lesser/Mongolian than Greater. I didn’t notice that detail first time around. Secondly the overall appearance puts me immediately in mind of Mongolian rather than Lesser.
So to be more specific, 3 things:
The Head Pattern– particularly forehead show 2 small white dots either side of thin black divide = ‘spectacles’. Where the pattern is reduced white it is more pro stegmanni than mongolus (larger area of white on average) but I am not convinced the taxonomic difference is especially valid- just marginally clinal. More importantly on male Lessers ‘atrifrons’ this is THICK black divide. Indeed it’s really a different pattern of all black forehead or black forehead with couple small white spots which are well separated and don’t look like spectacles. the head pattern on your bird is wrong for atrifrons.
The Underparts – deep colouring extends solidly down the breast. It then appears to break up into spots/ splodges of colour which then continue seemingly along just beyond (at least) mid flanks (say about 3/4 way along length of flanks. This pattern of underparts colouring is wrong for atrifrons- in which the colouring remains solid and fades a little towards the lower part of the breast. In doesn’t show obviously breaking up into distinct dark splodges and doesn’t normally extend so far along the flanks as it appears to on this bird.
The Black Necklace – I am a little circumspect about this as the ‘crease’ where the breast colouring reaches the white throat can appear to show a thin black dividing line which in reality is not really there. When definitely confirmed a black line is found in mongolus but not atrifrons. This bird does at least appear to show a black dividing line.
Thus unless there are other records hidden away, this look’s like Israel’s first Mongolian Plover.
Ian Lewington also commented along very similar lines, and he felt that while the light was harsh and may create some artifacts, the forehead pattern was Mongolian, the upper and underpart tones and extent of plumage all seem to indicate Mongolian and the black neck line could be ‘shadow’ but may well be real. Overall view- “Looks like Mongolian Plover”.
Too compare. The recent Mongolian Plover in Ireland:
Understandably, the issues of Sand Plovers and their identification has generated lots of positive and lively discussion amoungst the Israeli birding community of recent days. Hadoram Shirihai kindly sent these photos of male and female Mongolian Plover, fresh from a trip in the far east: