This site was where I first saw White-faced aka Swinhoe’s Plovers back in 2006, and in those early years I enjoyed such stellar birds as Chinese Egret, Little Stints, Ruff, Nordmann’s Greenshank and Aleutian Tern.
Sadly, now, it’s a shadow of its former glory, and what few waders there are there have to contend with so much filth.
Not much gold on this one.
In flight, it’s best to go with the bill. All the fine details about toe projection, wingbar shape, tail band colour and whether the carpal underside has a dark crescent or not are, in my view a) unreliable and b) superfluous (if you can see the bill). This applies with the nominate race – I have no experience of columbinus. I would say, if you get chance to compare Lesser and Greater in flight side by side, that Greater is distinctly broader-winged.
You should be able to spot the Greater Sand here, but not by using toe projection or underwing pattern!
Out of interest, I flipped it around and compared it with a fresh juvenile taken on 22 Aug (above). Barely a month difference, but the tertials and tail give the two birds quite different ‘back-ends’. Since one diagnostic feature of the Nearctic Spotted Sandpiper is a short tail, this is more significant than might be supposed. One other diagnostic feature of juvenile Spotted – a lack of notches on the tertials – cannot be seen on this bird as the edges have worn away. Fortunately (or unfortunately!), the sides of the greater coverts just about show signs of notching, which confirms that this is a juvenile Common Sandpiper.
Adult Common Sandpipers in spring and autumn. The top bird was photographed on 24 April 2013, and the one below on 22 August 2013. The same plumage, just different lighting and amounts of wear and tear. The top bird shows how long the tail ‘should’ be!
Another ‘Tringa ally’ (like Common Sandpiper) – Terek Sandpiper. Like all Tringa allies, they fall short in the ‘shank’ (leg) department, but Tereks more than make up for their short legs by their bill, which is loooong, and upturned to boot!
Terek Sandpipers have a very distinctive call, which you can hear on the video below.