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SHOREBIRDS  July 2008

SHOREBIRDS July 2008

Subject:

Eskimo Curlew: Damn few and they're not all deid!

From:

"Norman D.van Swelm" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Norman D.van Swelm

Date:

Fri, 4 Jul 2008 14:56:36 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (79 lines)

Martin Collinson wrote: >I feel there's been (until you) no rebuttal of this Eskimo Curlew claim because many people thought it was not necessary.< 

Peter Adriaens wrote: >Next, you will probably come up with similar 'evidence' of a breeding population of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in The Netherlands!< 

 Guys! Believe me, I know how you feel. Had I known I was photographing an Eskimo Curlew my hands would have started to tremble indefinitely and I would not even have been able to take the poor quality photo's as Ron has described them so kindly. Fortunately I only saw a tiny brown curlew amidst a group of curlews which were harassed by our local Goshawk. Thank you Mr.Goshawk!
This kind of encounters don't come cheep! I have been screening every group of curlews that crossed my path over the last thirty years or so and the only rarity I expected to come across one day was the Slender-billed Curlew as there have been quite a few observations in The Netherlands over the last hundred years or more.
Guys, my advise to you is: take a brake. Relax, or come and visit the Oostvoorne beach, the Eskimo Curlew may still be there! Who knows? There is plenty of affordable accommodation, the food is excellent, the weather fine and you only have to check thousands of shy, moulting curlews. What better way of spending your time than mourning you've just missed an Eskimo Curlew?

Back to thé bird!

Jerry Tangren wrote: >I wouldn't worry about the plumage color, but that bill just looks funny for
any bird. Any chance the photo was enhanced to bring out its shape?<

Well Jerry, what you see is fragments of larger pictures cut out just bring out the bird from the larger group of curlews. Remember that the distance between me and the birds is about 70 meters or so.
 
Jerry Tangren wrote: > I'd also like to believe. Whatever happened to the secret Canadian breeding
> population of the late 20th century?<

I couldn't possibly comment!

Ron Pittaway wrote: >The poor quality photos show no 
> diagnostic characters of an Eskimo Curlew. Its size cannot be 
> properly evaluated. The wings linings appear gray not tawny. The bill 
> seems too heavy, too deep-based, too long, and too strongly decurved 
> for an Eskimo Curlew.<

I could see the comment on size coming therefore we will include a picture on the site soon, taken in Naturalis i.e. the National Museum for Natural History in Leiden here in The Netherlands, of skins of a Curlew N.arquata found in Oostvoorne and a Little Curlew N.borealis . Little Curlew is smaller than Eskimo Curlew as you know but the three Eskimo Curlews in the museum are mounted specimens and in spite of much persuasion we couldn't get our friend the collection manager to stretch one of the Eskimo's a bit for the occassion. The colour and size of our bird leave only two species to choose from: Little and Eskimo. I think Eskimo is the one but I can assure you that the two in hand are surprisingly similar!

David Sonneborn wrote: >I saw a Little Curlew in Alaska which was collected (so no doubt about 
the identity) and in the late 60"s I may have seen an Eskimo Curlew ( I 
still think I did although it was not a good date) in North Carolina. 
SO I must be an expert. The underwing of the Little Curlew was similar 
to that in your photos while the putative Eskimo Curlew put its wing up 
which was "cinnamon". So I vote for Little.<

David, your vote will be taken seriously. We have taken pictures of the underwing of Little Curlew in Naturalis which will we will show soon. You can compare them with the pictures of Eskimo Curlew on the site of the Britisch Museum. My impression is that the contrast and colour do not differ much.

Gyorgy Szimuly wrote: > Before this news rocks the World I have some comments...
> I guess sides and underwing coloration is not as rufus/tawny as it
> should be and the belly is quite white which is fine for Little Curlew.
> Also the leg projection is not quite obvious on the highly cropped
> images. Was it visible on the field? Based on the image the upperwing
> doesn't look 'uniformly dark' as Hayman et al says.<

Gyorgy, please compare the pictures from Naturalis and the BM, my impression is that the underpart colouration of the two species is quite similar.

Gyorgy Szimuly wrote: > Any chance of a top-side view of the flying bird where wing pattern
and rump visible? <

All I the pictures I took can be seen here: 

 http://members.lycos.nl/radioactiverobins/snipes-waders/eskimo%20curlew%20numenius%20borealis.htm

Gyorgy Szimuly wrote: > By the way... a Little Curlew record would also be awesome for the
> Netherlands. :))))<
Yes.

Bob OBrien wrote: > I've only seen one little curlew which I photographed extensively in 
> California years ago but i agree with your comments on the bill.
> BUT...This is too incredible.  Are there supposed to be links to other 
> photos on this page (for the other 7 shorebirds)?  If so they don't work. 
> It would be useful to see all the photos to help judge this incredible 
> find among photos of 'known' birds.
> Congratulations (?) & best regards,<

Thank you for your kind congrats Bob!

Bill Benner wrote:>I am curious how you can tell that this is not a Little Curlew (Numenius minutus).  I have never seen either species, so I don't really have any experience.  I thought, though, that N. borealis had cinnamon wing linings--brighter than the bird in the photos?  Thanks for any help,<

> On Thu, 3 Jul 2008, Norman D.van Swelm wrote: 
>>  Hi Bill,
Of course Little Curlew crossed my mind, it wasn't like: Oh look an Eskimo Curlew! Little has a different shaped and shorter bill and it's legs are projected beyond the tail. Under ideal conditions the cinnamon may be brighter but this bird was at quite some distance besides have a look at the skins in the British Museum the cinnamon is not as bright as in some illustrations in ID guides.<

As mentioned above we made a number of pictures of Little Curlews Numenius minutus in Naturalis. There are quite a few skins in the collection from birds shot in the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and the Philippines. Alas there are only three mounted Eskimo Curlews without date, one with location Brazil and for the other two: North America. They will be placed on the site soon, so
keep an eye on:
 
  http://members.lycos.nl/radioactiverobins/snipes-waders/eskimo%20curlew%20numenius%20borealis.htm

All the best, Norman

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