Thanks to everyone who has given prompt feedback on the identity of the lowest bird in the photo below.
Now I have to confess that I was being less than fully transparent, in that I have a few other images of this bird, which I will now divulge. Nevertheless, I put this image up first because I do believe the bird is identifiable from this image alone.
Firstly, the head proportions and relative size – the bird does not look big-headed or to have a high forehead (compare it with this photo, which I took in Selangor back in April 2008).
The forehead is not obviously white, and the supercilium kinks up behind the eye, as is typical for Red-necked Stint, but not for Spoon-billed Sandpiper (the supercilium of SBS is typically thin and tends to die off as a point behind the eye).
The neck sides show rather extensive streaking, which is another pro-RNS, anti-SBS feature. SBS typically shows no or very limited streaking in this area.
So, in my view, everything except the apparent bill-shape says this should be a Red-necked Stint. But, what about the bill?
SBS bill in profile shows a finely-tapered tip which is slightly upturned (ref again the photo taken in 2008). I would argue that the angle here is sufficiently side-on to show the bill profile quite accurately, and it is not what one would expect of a real Spoonie, being slightly downcurved and blob-tipped, despite the initial obvious similarity.
Now the other photos…
Less and less convincing as we go along! Still, the series does go to show the very real possibility of muddy-billed Red-necked Stints passing themselves off at first glance as Spoon-billed Sandpipers. This phenomenon is not particularly unusual either – I first noticed it in 2006 (see this photo), and I have seen it several times since, so one to be wary of.
So, yesterday, I did not see a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Penang! However, the day before was another story, because, at the same site, I saw THIS!