Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crab Plover ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 9-22-14
Well your spiritual energy and goodwill did it again, helped physically, admittedly, by the excellent local bird guide Tommy Pedersen, a Dubai-based pilot from Norway who takes visitors birding in his spare time.
There had been some doubt as to whether he’d be free to help us, as he was just returning from a trip to Milan. I cc’d the last bird of the week to him and got a delightful reply just as I was packing in Bluewater on Monday morning:
So, I arrived in Dubai at 5:00 am, checked into my hotel at 7:00 am and at 11:00 am Tommy arrived, collected me and Madeleine – who’d just arrived from Hamburg – in his large and comfortable 4WD and off we went. The tide wasn’t quite right for the Crab Plovers so we did a few other things first – more about those in the next bird of the week – eventually ending up at the coastal sand and mudflats of Khor al-Beida, north of Dubai city. Here, there were about 40 Crab Plovers moving through the shallows on an in-coming tide.
I did a gradual, crouching trudge across the mudflat in 42º heat to try to get as close as possible to them. They let me get closer than I had expected, photos one and two, before eventually taking flight, third photo. As you can see they are very striking birds and the name ‘Plover’ doesn’t quite do them justice, either in appearance or taxonomically. Apart from the heavy dagger-shaped bill, they are more like avocets and similar in size with a length 40 cm/16 in. The bill resembles that of a Beach Stone-curlew, presumably a case of convergent evolution reflecting their crustacean diet.
The fourth photos shows a close-up of one of the birds in flight. You can see that it is moulting heavily with many of the flight feathers missing in mid-replacement. This seemed to be the case with all of them, and a reluctance to fly may have had more to do with my close approach than my crouching/stalking skills.
Taxonomically, the species show no very close affinities with other waders so the Crab Plover is the sole member of its own family (‘monotypic’), the Dromadidae. This is placed in the order Charadriiformes – Plovers & Allies – sitting between the Oystercatchers (Haemopodidae) and the Avocets & Stilts (Recurvirostridae). I feign indifference to making additions to my life list, but adding and photographing a whole new family is a different matter. The last time that happened to me was three years ago with Diving-Petrels on the Sub-antarctic trip.
I arrived in Ireland yesterday and am spending a relaxing and enjoyable time with family. Yesterday evening I went blackberry picking with my sister along a country lane near where she lives in Clogherhead, Co. Louth. That was admirable therapy for the future-shock resulting from the glittering excesses of downtown Dubai.
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; (Job 8:5 KJV)
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 KJV)
We love to seek out new species, to us at least. I am glad that Ian was able to find his Plover that was on his list. I guess we will have to wait until next week to see if he found his Cream-coloured Courser that he was also searching for. See last week’s Bird of the Week.
Ian sure gets about in his search for avian encounters. But what a beauty he found this time to share with us. I am glad Ian shares his photos with us. The Lord sure has created some neat birds. I like the clean look of these Crab-plovers all dressed in white and black. (The IOC list them as Crab-plovers. No matter what you call them, they are the Dromas ardeola.)
Seeking the Lord should always be our number one priority.
Dromadidae – Crab-plover Family – Here