EXPLANATION: 1c = "first calendar-year", 2c = "second calendar-year", 2c+ = "at least second calendar-year" (after the complete autumn moult), 3c+ = "at least third calendar-year" (birds not hatched the preceding year, after 1 January). Ring numbers have been used for reference, but two digits have been replaced by XX in order to discourage fake sightings. The Swedish pictures were taken with a Canon A80 on "auto" setting, with flashlight if necessary, while the bird was held in the left hand. (Hold a nocturnal catch up against the night sky, try to achieve a distance of at least 1/2 m in order to get as little reflection as possible, focus on some point below the mid-line. If the ground is used for support, the camera may focus on it and the picture will be useless. I warn anyone who wants to adapt my method: three out of four pictures will be useless, so take pictures with redundancy and make small variations between each exposure. E.g. i often try one picture with 50 ASA and flashlight, then switch to 100 ASA, etc.) In the field, it may also be better to focus by the light from a headtorch, and still use the flashlight for exposure afterwards. From picture 48 the camera is a Canon S5 IS, set on "manual", often with the "super makro" setting; i will try to exchange some of the earlier pictures with much reflection when i have learnt to use the new camera. Unfortunately the default flashlight doesn't work with super makro, so the camera must be complemented by external flashlight. Afterwards pictures are treated with Adobe Photoshop or Gimp 2 (for possibilities see e.g.: Tips and Tricks in Digiscoping ); in my case i mainly reduce the pixel content to the level that normal computers/screens display.
Coordinates of sites mentioned: Ljunghusen (Falsterbo Canal), Sweden = 55°24'N, 12°57'E; Skanör (Ängsnäset), Sweden = 55°24'N, 12°54'E; Höllviken, Sweden = 55°25'N, 12°57'E; Foteviken, Sweden = 55°27'N, 12°58'E; Chongming Island (Chongming Dongtan, Tsungming Tao), China = appr. 31°40'N, 121°40'E; Hanbou, Changhwa, Taiwan = 24°02' N, 120°22'E; Barrow, Alaska = 71°21'N, 156°36'W, Tutakoke River, Alaska = c61°26'N, c165°26'W; Longyearbyen, Svalbard = c78°13'N, 15°39'E; Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, California = 37°30'N, 122°30'W,

picture 1 , Sweden male , picture 2 , Sweden female , picture 3 , Sweden, northern bird , picture 4 , Sweden, ABC, centralis? , picture 5 , Sweden, schinzii? , picture 6 , Sweden , picture 7 , Sweden , picture 8 , Sweden, ABC , picture 9 , Sweden, male , picture 10 , Sweden , picture 11 , Sweden, juvenile , picture 12 , Sweden, winter plumage , picture 13 , Sweden, moult bias , picture 14 , Chongming, China , picture 15 , Chongming, China , picture 16 , Chongming, China , picture 17 , Chongming, China , picture 18 , Chongming, China , picture 19 , Chongming, China , picture 20 , arcticola, Barrow, Alaska , picture 21 , arcticola, Barrow, Alaska , picture 22 , arcticola, Barrow, Alaska , picture 23 , arcticola, Barrow, Alaska , picture 24 , pacifica, Alaska , picture 25 , pacifica, Alaska , picture 26 , Sweden , picture 27 , Sweden, juveniles , picture 28 , Sweden, late body-moult , picture 29 , hudsonia, Manitoba, Canada , picture 30 , arctica, Peary Land, Greenland , picture 31 , arctica males, NE Greenland , picture 32 , arctica female, NE Greenland , picture 33 , arctica, sexes, NE Greenland , picture 34 , alpina, Murmansk, Russia , picture 35 , sakhalina?, Tomsk area, Siberia , picture 36 , ?, Tokyo area, Japan , picture 37 , schinzii, 3c+ male, Foteviken, S.Sweden , picture 38 , schinzii, 3c+ male, Foteviken, S.Sweden , picture 39 , schinzii, 3c+ female, Foteviken, S.Sweden , picture 40 , schinzii, 3c+ female, Foteviken, S.Sweden , picture 41 , "sakhalina", 3c+, Chongming Island , picture 42 , alpina, 2c male, Ljunghusen May 18th , picture 43 , centralis?, 3c+ female, Ljunghusen May 18th , picture 44 , eastern alpina, 3c+ male, Ljunghusen May 26th , picture 45 , subspecies?, 2c+, Hanbou, Changhwa May 5th , picture 46 , adult buff 2c male?, Skanör August 8th , picture 47 , adult buff 2c male?, Skanör August 8th , picture 48 , adult carpal covert, Ljunghusen, Sweden May 9th , picture 49 , buff-edged juvenile carpal covert, Ljunghusen, Sweden May 10th , picture 50 , possible arctica, Skanör, Sweden, July 27th , picture 51 , adult buff 2c male?, Skanör, Sweden, July 31th , picture 52 , adult arctica?, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, June 27th , picture 53 , 3c+ female? schinzii, Foteviken, Sweden, April 23rd , picture 54 , 3c+ female? schinzii, Foteviken, Sweden, April 23rd , picture 55 , 2c? subspecies?, Half Moon Bay, California, April 25th , picture 56 , 3c+? pacifica, Half Moon Bay, California, April 25th , picture 57 , 3c+? pacifica, Half Moon Bay, California, April 25th , picture 58 , bleached alpina, Skanör, July 29th , picture 59 , retained carpal covert in alpina, Skanör, July 29th , picture 60 , juvenile carpal covert and carpal remicle, Falsterbo peninsula, September 11th , picture 61 , mystery colour rings, Finistère, April 2010 , picture 62 , chestnut edges to tertial coverts in adult male, Skanör, Sweden, August 14th , picture 63 , adult buff coverts in 2c+ bird, Han Pao, Taiwan, October 24th , picture 64 , particulars of 2c+ bird with adult buff coverts, Han Pao, Taiwan, October 24th ,

dunlin male

PICTURE 1: Stockholm 350XX12, migrant 2c male, Ljunghusen, 2.7.05. Sometimes the Dunlin male (in this case belonging to the subspecies alpina ) can be determined without any doubt: white at the base of the bill, white face, whitish neck-band, the bill as long as the outermost segment of the forefinger. But it's seldom as easy as that; most males have small spots in their white areas, and incomplete prenuptial moult, wear and initiated postnuptial moult disturb the pattern. [CP]

dunlin female

PICTURE 2: Stockholm 350XX20, migrant 3c+ female, Ljunghusen, 8.7.05. The female Dunlin has much more dots and shades in her face, her indicated lores are wider and in most cases she lacks the bill-base "goggles" (seen from above, cf. picture 28 ) of the male. The flash whitens the neckband a little, but a female with inner primary ranking 3 (as here) often has a rather whitish neck-band, at least in July (cf. pictures 5 and 16 ). Note the compact, flawless belly-patch of an eastern female; this is an eastern alpina or a bird from the area of the disputed subspecies centralis . [CP]

dunlin male with late moult

PICTURE 3: Stockholm 350XX58, migrant 3c+, Höllviken, 1.6.06. Wing length 120 mm, bill length 31.0 mm. (My original sexing: male, was alpina -oriented and based exclusively on measurements; if this bird comes from a population with small body-size it is more likely a female. Or do we see a dawning neck-band?) The Sanderling in the centre might be heading for some northern latitude - is the less than half-moulted Dunlin heading for some similar target? The adorning colour tends towards orange rather than chestnut, indicating that this is a very northern and western bird. Is there some connection between belated moult and northern breeding latitude (probably not breeding conditions in e.g. Svalbard until well after midsummer - and note that the Sanderling breeds later [ Toke et al. 2004 ] than the Dunlin in Greenland!) The first observations listed for Svalbard often come from Adventfjorden, e.g. 26.5.1996 , 27.5.2006 , maximum 60 inds. 3.6.96 - the total population is estimated at a few hundred pairs. These dates indicate that the Svalbard population migrates at exactly the same time as eastern alpina staging in the Waddensea. So: could the bird be sick (nematodes, blood parasites) or poisoned? It weighed 69 g at 03h, birds staging or resting in the Sound area seldom reach higher weights there; the 80+ g birds belong to the Waddensea. Summing up, after weighing pros and cons: i don't think there is any moult in alpina after 1 June, what hasn't been exchanged then is suspended. Some West-/North-Palaearctic populations have a very lack-lustre breeding plumage, they may for example breed with three unmoulted winter scapulars. There seems to be some extra cost connected with belonging to a marginal Dunlin population, lying a little apart from the main migration flyways and population "centres" ( Lappo & Tomkovich 1998 ), and one currency the price is paid in may be breeding plumage. (Indicating that breeding plumage/sexual selection is an area, like moult, where compromise is acceptable; Dunlin - and most likely Aves - "optimality" has some sort of Normal-like distribution, with more than average and less than average performance viable and possible to integrate in the overall performance of individuals and populations). Another possibility is that the looks of the breeding plumage matters little in marginal and thin populations; every bird still finds a mate. [CP]

adult buff coverts

PICTURE 4: Good arrival of Siberian waders on Falsterbo peninsula 17 July 2006, the picture shows a Dunlin wing with A: the juvenile inner medians of a 2c bird (faded on exposed outer vane?) and buff-tipped carpal covert (CC), B: at least two fresh "adult buff" median coverts and C: "droplet primary coverts" with white on outer vane of the underlying, fresh primary reaching rhachis (P2 and P3). Note the rich red colour of the back feathers. I suggest that this bird originates from somewhere between Yamal and Taimyr Peninsulas. Yellow light from the rising sun added to the bird's colours. [CP]

dunlin female

PICTURE 5: A bird with Gdansk ring, 3c+, Skanör 22.7.06, ringed four days earlier at Swibno, Gdansk. Inner primary ranking "0" and no neck-band. The bill was very short - 30.1 mm - still this face in my opinion is characteristic of a female. It could belong to the subspecies schinzii, quickly heading towards extinction in NW mainland Europe; what can be seen of blotchy dots on the breast doesn't contradict that assumption. The face pattern can be seen e.g. in females along the southern edge of western alpina populations, in Scandinavia and Finland (sometimes described as schinzii by authors of the past), but some proper schinzii look like this, too. Lappo & Tomkovich 1998 assign at least western Karelia to the schinzii breeding range, and Soikkeli 1966 was studying schinzii in Finland. Dawn picture without flashlight. Compare note to picture 40 . [CP]

dunlin female

PICTURE 6: Stockholm 352XX99, 3c+, Skanör 23.7.06. Inner primary ranking "3" and distinct neck-band. The bird had a very long bill - 38.7 mm ("sakhalina" measurement of European papers a few decades ago) - and its face in my opinion is characteristic of an eastern type female, very close to or from the "centralis" area. One should keep in mind that wear often has "created" a neckband in many females by July; morphological sexing should be most reliable in May (also see picture 17 ). There is some flashlight reflection in this picture. [CP]

dunlin make, pale adult buff coverts

PICTURE 7: Stockholm 352XX22, 2c, probably male, Skanör 25.7.06. Inner primary ranking "3", white edges of primary coverts restricted laterally (don't reach the sides of the feather; this is the "droplet" feature in statu nascendi). Note A: fresh adult buff tertial coverts with fox-red all around the edge (easily mistaken for a juvenile feather), B: fresh "adult buff" median coverts with faint buffish hue, less pronounced than the reddish ones of pictures 4 and 8 and more in line with pictures pictures 46 and 47 (we may have the emergence of the "adult buff" feature here, this bird maybe originating from somewhere just west of Yamal or from Yamal proper), C: replaced primaries 1 - 4, P 5 growing. The ragged edges of juvenile feathers are conspicuous, triangular tips of worn greater coverts barely discernible (cf. picture 10 ). Flashlight foto with reflection from white of inner primaries. [CP]

dunlin male, adult buff coverts

PICTURE 8: Stockholm 352XX34, 2c male, Skanör 26.7.06. Inner primary ranking "3", droplet primary coverts, the carpal covert exchanged (which tells us that this is probably a case of erroneous ageing; the inner medians interpreted as "2c" were adult buff 3c+). Note fresh adult buff tertial covert and growing tertial with chestnut all around the edge, fresh "adult buff" median coverts with chestnut hue, every trace of white worn off old greater coverts - this may be a measure of the distance flown since the last complete moult (cf. pictures 10 , 14 and 15 !). Primaries 1 - 3 are fresh, P 4 initiated, but covered. Many males have more reddish, more unworn edges to nuptial back feathers than females; the latter may lack this colourful ornament altogether in the second half of June and in July (maybe brooding females shed these edges, much like Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla in spring. Otherwise the female "wear", down to the dark core of these feathers, is difficult to explain. Or are they "whipped off" by turbulence in flight? Why then do so many birds have almost unworn back feathers? In the present case old, greater coverts are extremely worn, rather fresh back-feathers almost unworn. A third possibility is that back-feather edges are nibbled off by a brooding bird). A female that has bred often has dull black covert centres with narrow dark-brown edges, the almost complete absence of red is striking, seen from above (possibly the most reliable female criterion in July-August). Flashlight photo - where i had learnt to focus on the area just below my thumb.... [CP]

dunlin male, grey medians

PICTURE 9: Stockholm 352XX72, 3c+ male, Skanör 1.8.06. Inner primary ranking "0", grey, worn medians, no moult. This bird belongs to a western and northern population (subspecies alpina ), where no 3c+ birds had initiated moult on 1 August (and where most 2c had started moulting, arriving half a day later than the 3c+ birds, indicating that at least 3c+ birds had been pressing on after leaving breeding-grounds), it has much the same face as the male of picture 1. Dawn picture without flashlight. [CP]

dunlin male, grey medians, droplet coverts

PICTURE 10: Stockholm 352XX89, 2c+ male, Skanör 2.8.06. Inner primary ranking "3", grey, worn medians, P1 - 4 fresh, P5 almost fullgrown, P6 growing. Note A. / how the "droplets" on the tips of primary coverts are reduced to practically nothing, and B. / how the tips of greater coverts have been worn down to triangular shape. Flashlight picture with some reflection. [CP]

dunlin male, juvenile

PICTURE 11: Stockholm 352XX92, 1st calendar year, Skanör 2.8.06 (left picture). Inner primary ranking "0". Left picture: each tertial and wing covert is edged buff or rust-brown; the innermost of these feathers will "survive" the September/October body-moult into winter plumage and the April/May body-moult into breeding plumage and be recognisable as juvenile feathers till the first postnuptial (complete) moult in July/August 2007. Note the distinct demarcation between black centre and buff edge. Inner primary coverts and inner primaries (ranking 0, or even 1, it's a close case) are inset at the lower right corner; the white edges of PC2 and PC3 are broad for a juvenile, but not abnormal; there is some small overlap in this character between adults and juveniles from populations visiting W Europe. Warning: Much light buff on outer medians will be bleached and worn off already by Oct 1st - 15th; the picture to the right shows a juvenile from Höllviken with strongly faded and worn medians from 16.10.2005. Back feathers and some coverts are grey, fresh, recently exchanged in the partial winter moult. Here only the tertial covert is distinctly juvenile, although a few other juvenile feathers are covered by grey winter feathers, because the wing is a little ruffled. Faded and worn remains of juvenile light buff are indicated with red lines. Anyhow, only a juvenile has that worn medians in October. Could ground-level ozone be responsible for the swift bleach of buff edges in some dunlins? If that is the case, we are facing an identification problem linked with air pollution. (The two birds brought together here may come from populations that lie far apart). Flashlight pictures with some reflection.[CP]

moulted dunlin female, grey medians, 20060831

PICTURE 12: Stockholm 352XX28, 2c+ female?, Höllviken 31.8.06. Inner primary ranking "3", slight tendency for droplet primary coverts. (I suggest: an eastern alpina bird, somewhere from around the Urals). All remiges fresh, most likely exchanged on breeding-grounds; wing-coverts, tertials, scapulars fresh, 10 - 20 % of the black belly-patch remaining. Red edges on old coverts in the scapular region were "cut" away, only the black cores of feathers left; the sexing was based on this feature, and on measurements. This bird is unique in my experience; before it all birds with fresh remiges by the end of August had "adult buff" medians. Feathers ruffled by wind, the picture has been filtered in order to reduce brownish hue on ruffled areas. [CP]

asymmetry in dunlin moult, 20060911

PICTURE 13: Stockholm 352XX87, 2c+, Höllviken 11.9.06; inner primary ranking "0", grey medians, weight 51.5 g. (I suggest: a western alpina bird, very similar to birds from the wintering population of the Baltic, we call them "standard alpina"). Note the step between white on inner and outer vane of the three or four innermost primary coverts, typical of an adult bird from this area - but occurring less markedly in a few juveniles, too. Cases of asymmetry seem to become more accentuated as moult progresses, one wing growing faster than the other all the time. In this bird P9 had grown c9/10 in one wing, and P10 was shed, not showing [LEFT picture] , while P8 had grown c7/10 in the other, P9 c4/10, and P10 was old [RIGHT picture] . The minute P11 was old in both wings, and in spite of P10 being shed in one, the primary covert above it was old (this covert might even "belong to" P9). The secondary moult had reached S8 (long pin = 6/10), in the tail R1 and R2 were new, the three outermost rectrices c5/10. This migrant had gaps corresponding to c1 primary, a little less than one secondary and a little less than two rectrices on each side, and pronounced asymmetry in the pattern of primaries between wings. [CP]

2c sakhalina, Chongming

PICTURE 14: Chongming Island [ 1 , 2 ] is an alluvial island at the mouth of Yangtze River, China, its tidal flats make up an important staging area for northbound migrants in spring. The East Siberian subspecies sakhalina occurs in China, but no one knows the extent to which Nearctic birds are involved. Because of this i write "sakhalina" as a group designation for all birds visiting Chongming Island, still not siding in the never-ending duel between taxonomic "dividers" and "uniters". (Pavel Tomkovich remarked that i must consider the subspecies kistchinski, and he has a stake in actites as well). The N Alaskan subspecies "arcticola" is often treated as separate from sakhalina (there is some genetical difference), but the morphological arguments in favour of separation adduced by e.g. Engelmoor & Roselaar 1998 are meagre and confused (also see Maclean & Holmes 1971 ). So there is a lot to consider. Who provides me with ONE good picture of an incontrovertible kistchinski?
The above picture shows the wing of a 2c from 15 January 2005; "sakhalina" leaves enough juvenile feathers to allow age-determination after the winter moult.
Note the wear of exposed median coverts (they may belong to the first feather generation, judging from the hue, there is a fresh winter feather to the extreme left). I think the worn feathers are particularly exposed to some sort of turbulence connected with the main lift force "applied" to the wing; their edges are whipped off like the edges of streamers, and their main purpose may be to reduce such turbulence by absorbing part of its energy. Part of the feather could be "ear-marked" for this purpose by having less of reinforcing pigment. Next follows the question: what causes most wear, regular migration flight or manoeuvring (e.g. in order to evade predators)?
In this specimen white reaches rhachis over a long distance in P1 - 4, the inner primary coverts have extremely broad white edges - but there is no real step between inner and outer vane. I have seen a few of its kind in Sweden, but broad edges are rare in juveniles here. The 1c carpal covert (CC) in most cases has a slight buffish hue, in Europe the CC remains unmoulted for a long time in 2c birds (and may still be used for ageing in late July and early August), it is a "forgotten" but very helpful feather. /ERROR: The carpal remicle, acting as PC1, is marked CC here; the true carpal covert, also buff-tipped, is vaguely glimpsed above it, hidden behind the outermost secondary (greater) covert. I let the error stand, for pedagogic reasons. (Cf. pictures 48 and 49 ). [CP]/ Picture filtered in order to repress a brown tint. Photo: Zhi Junma . [CP]

3c+ sakhalina, Chongming

PICTURE 15: "sakhalina", 3c+, Chongming Island, late March 2005. This bird has initiated its prenuptial moult; a few back feathers with the typical pattern white-grey-black-chestnut have emerged. (I think they are too unworn to be left-overs from last year's nuptial plumage (but cf pictures 26 and 28 ), and the time is right). Greenwood 1983 estimates the average start of postnuptial moult on E Siberian breeding-grounds at 6th June (i would like to see that date reconfirmed and related to latitude in the sakhalina - kistchinski complex), earliest of all subspecies; there is every reason to anticipate a correspondingly early prenuptial moult start. All secondaries are curved and paddle-formed, note the whiteness of S9 and S10 and rather broad white distal edges to all secondaries , this feature occurs in the East Pacific birds of pictures 14 - 16 and 21 - 22 , and picture 4 (presumed centralis ) has it, but it is less pronounced in e.g. pictures 10 and 26 . Photo: Zhi Jun Ma. [CP]

3c+ sakhalina, Chongming

PICTURE 16: 3c+ "sakhalina", 24.3.05, Chongming Island. In Chongming birds from mid-May, some had a tendency for the droplet covert character, in particular on the inner vane, but here is a "normal-looking" adult from March with step between inner and outer vane of inner PC. Again note white reaching rhachis of P1 - 4; all Chongming birds seem to have this feature. Photo: Zhi Jun Ma. [CP]

female/male difference?

PICTURE 17: "sakhalina", Chongming Island, 13 May 2006. What we see here may be gender differences; less grey and white on back-feathers in a female (left), tendency for a whitish neck-band in the male (right). Biometry should be collected in support of (or in order to reject ) this assumption. Prater, Marchant and Vuorinen 1977 bluntly state: Both sexes of N.E. Palaearctic and Nearctic birds have pale collar. Cf. commentary under picture 6 . Photo: Qiang Ma. [CP]

tendency for droplet primary coverts

PICTURE 18: Chongming Island, "sakhalina", Chongming Island, 13 May 2006. Tendency for droplet primary coverts; the carpal covert is white-edged, and i think this is a 3c+ bird. Photo: Qiang Ma, enlarged to 200 %. [CP]

sakhalina, Chongming, winter, spring

PICTURE 19: "sakhalina" in winter (March) and summer plumage (13 May 2006), Chongming Island. Dunlin belonging to eastern subspecies have very impressive bills, at least by European standards, and a rather pale face, with little contrast between crown, sides of head and neck, but noting the rich pattern of nuptial back feathers: white-grey-black-chestnut, i suggest that the right bird is a male (cf pictures 15 and 17). Three remarks in passing: A./ There is not a trace of "adult buff" coverts in pictures 14 - 17; if there ever were any buff edges, they have been worn off long ago! B./ I have noted a notch on the "lores" of many Chongming birds now, both winter and summer plumage - but the European(?) bird in picture 12 has it, too, even more accentuated. C./ This picture elucidates why Prater, Marchant and Vuorinen 1977 single out mantle fringes ("deep rich chestnut") and breast streaking ("faint") of sakhalina. Photos: Zhi Jun Ma (left), Qiang Ma (right). Thanks to both these contributors and to Jimmy Choi, who arranged for me to have the Chinese pictures (and who was instrumental in bringing about picture 13 as well). [CP]

moulting arcticola dunlin, Alaskan North slope, 2 July

PICTURE 20: 2c+ arcticola , Barrow, Alaska ( 1 ) 2.7.05, photo Richard B. Lanctot link 1 , link 2. Inner primary ranking "3" on primaries 1 - 4, white edges to primary coverts similar to those in picture 22 , after inspecting them ten times i am convinced that there is a tendency for droplets. Note how old outer primary coverts at lower edge of picture are the same length as (not full-grown) P5! P6 is shed and growing as well, the vane showing, which means at least 40 % of full length. The outermost secondary, S1, is still retained, belonging to the old feather generation; it stands next in turn, S2 - S4 shed almost simultaneously. If we assume the mean growth rate of Siberian birds with adult buff coverts, TIME(days) = 0.5 * Percent Primary Mass Grown (cf Fig. 6 ), to be valid for Alaskan birds as well, 40 % of the primary mass (P1 - P6) will grow in 20 days. In the present case P5 - 6 are not complete, approximately three days of growth remain, so this bird shed its first primary by June 15th. Holmes 1966 stated: "Within the period 14 - 20 June in each year of study at Barrow, almost every adult Red-back started wing molt." The earliest moulters from Siberia, migrating W by way of the Baltic in July, attain the same state of development c2 weeks later, while some western/northern European alpina will lag behind the Bering Straits/Alaskan performance by a month or more. [CP]

moulting arcticola dunlin, Alaskan North slope, 3 July

PICTURE 21: 2c? arcticola , Barrow, Alaska 3.7.05, photo Richard B. Lanctot. Much the same pattern in this bird as the bird above; it started a day later. Note the extreme wear of unmoulted P7 - P10 (this also supports the age determination "2c"), dense streaking on the breast sides, a suggested neckband bending in at both sides of the neck, and very orange-coloured (the colour temperature of this particular picture may be the reason) coverts above the scapulars (compare e.g. pictures 8 and 10 ). There is more contrast between crown and sides of head in this bird than in the "sakhalina" of picture 19 , much the same contrast as in picture 23 . [CP]

moulting arcticola dunlin, Alaskan North slope, 3 July

PICTURE 22: 2c? arcticola , Barrow, Alaska 3.7.05, photo Richard B. Lanctot. The same bird as in picture 20 ; i have pointed out with blue lines three worn and faded coverts that might belong to the juvenile (unmoulted) plumage, with red lines three feathers exchanged in the partial winter moult. (Age determination calls for the skills of a detective, Sherlock Holmes' magnifying glass belongs in the equipment!) Greater coverts are barely discernible, median coverts extremely worn, but not a single one has been exchanged yet. [CP]

moulting arcticola dunlin, Alaskan North slope, early July

PICTURE 23: 3c+? arcticola , Barrow, Alaska 5 - 10.7.06, photo Dave Krueper . This is a wonderful picture showing what can be done by a photographer with a keen eye, without catching the bird; one can almost hear the trill (and the head is slightly vibrating from it). It must show a male; the face is whitish, there is a broad neckband, and breast streaks are rather sparse. Maybe the face is at its whitest when a male is in charge of young, giving a sort of particular parental expression? The cap looks like a kipa. There is another picture of a nursing male in the links; that bird, too, has a very whitish face. P6 has grown c3/4 of full length, P7 is shed, and at least some outer greater coverts (=secondary coverts) are shed. I cannot say for sure if S1 is still there, but i think it is; it is next for the chop. Secondary coverts are normally shed a little before secondaries and grow very fast; that way they can cover the gap created by the almost simultaneous shedding of five - six secondaries. The moult schedule seems to be very strictly attended to in the Barrow area! Mantle fringes are deep chestnut, rather unworn P8 - 10 suggest that the bird is in at least its 3rd calendar year. White reaching rhachis on outer vane of at least P1 - 4, possibly 5 as well. Note the tips of inner primary coverts, there is a tendency for the "droplet" character. I think the carpal covert was shed with secondary coverts, and that the feather bent in over primary coverts is PC1, the carpal remicle, acting as first primary covert (which leaves us with nine coverts for ten primaries). It's not in line with other PC, but then again, from its point of attachment, is only just a "proper" primary covert. Look out for the CC in this particular situation, and send me a moult protocol! (Cf. pictures 48, 49 and 59). My thanks to Rick Lanctot, who put together the Alaskan collection for me - and to Dave Krueper! Text change 14.5.09. [CP]

adult pacifica, Yukon delta, May

PICTURE 24: 2c+, trilling (by all likelihood) male pacifica , Tutakoke River , the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta , Alaska, 23 May 2006, photo Pavel Tomkovich . Another highly interesting picture with "surplus" information, showing the on average largest and whitest of all Dunlin subspecies; Prater, Marchant and Vuorinen 1977 characterize the breast streaking as "very faint" and mantle fringes as "very bright chestnut". One wonders if males arrive at breeding grounds with their breeding plumage 100 % complete, or if there is some extra feather growth after arrival; is this bird in full breeding plumage and is e.g. the "sakhalina" of picture 19 complete? For one example, the cap is rather diffuse in this bird, either it still retains winter feathers on the head - or pacifica lacks a contrasting cap. Note rather worn remiges and coverts, all grey. [CP]

adult pacifica, Yukon delta, May

PICTURE 25: 2c+ pacifica , Tutakoke River, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, 5 June 2006, photo Pavel Tomkovich. I hope to have established the standard looks of pacifica with these two pictures, odd that they should come from Russia! There is an indication of cap in this bird, and after scanning details i think that it isn't the same one as in picture 24 - although it's turning the other flank. (dates support this assumption). My thanks to Pavel Tomkovich, who sent them; the site is gradually approaching a full hand in Dunlin subspecies! [CP]

dunlin male, grey medians, droplet coverts

PICTURE 26: no ring, 2c+, Ljunghusen 30.9.06. Inner primary ranking "3", droplet primary coverts, grey, fresh medians, all remiges fresh, some back feathers above scapulars unmoulted, belly patch moulted. This seems to be the most common plumage in adults migrating by way of the Sound with fresh plumage in late September and early October; no "adult buff" coverts, droplet primary coverts, any primary ranking, but most often "3". Departing from museum material it should be possible to locate the whereabouts of this population - i suggest: coming from some coastal area framing the Kara Sea. Cf. picture 10 . These birds moult on or near breeding-grounds, also see e.g. picture 12 and 13 ; still there is not a sign of "adult buff" in the wing. Such birds contradict the "hormone hypothesis" for adult buff coverts advocated by Gromadzka 1985 , i guess it's of Russian origin. [CP]

tips of primary coverts

PICTURE 27: three 1c, all typical alpina with inner primary ranking "0"; one 2c+ female? (bill 37.0 mm), Stockholm 352CP35, completely moulted, inner primary ranking "3", all Höllviken 10.10.06. Use primary covert tips as an aid to age determination mainly in 2c in summer! The inner medians and/or the tertials always reveal the age of a 1c bird. The picture shows: UPPER LEFT: 1c with narrow edges and a tendency for droplet primary coverts, note the buff-edged carpal covert close to the left margin, UPPER RIGHT: 1c with rather normal PC edges (this bird has a counterpart in picture 10), LOWER LEFT: 1c with adult pattern, but the step between inner and outer vane is less distinct than in most adults (the same pattern can be seen in a "sakhalina" bird in picture 14), LOWER RIGHT: 2c+ with a step between inner and outer vane (cf. the very distinct steps in picture 13). [CP]

dunlin male with unmoulted body feathers

PICTURE 28: Stockholm 352XX30, 2c+ male? (bill 30.4 mm, remaining goggles at bill-base, cf pictures 1 and 9 ), Höllviken 10.10.06. Inner primary ranking "0-1", tendency for droplet primary coverts, grey medians, all remiges fresh, body-feathers largely unmoulted. All morphology indicates: a western bird, from well to the west of the Urals. Some alpina birds, both males and females, appear as a sort of nannies among migrating juveniles, in October 2006 (a year on the low side in matters of reproduction) there are still 10 - 15 % migrating adults attending migrating juveniles in the Sound area. An adaptation like this is dynamic, involving some risk-taking and flouting the utilitarian advice of trivial Darwinism as to "optimal" individual behaviour; problems arise when the remige moult lags behind, in such cases the birds are forced to migrate with gaps or to suspend moult. Furthermore: females tend to be completely moulted in October, while males more often retain at least body-feathers, probably because females leave the immediate breeding-grounds and moult elsewhere, where they don't compromise the growth of their offspring. [CP]

On 20 March 2007 i ransacked the collection of Zoologisk Museum, Copenhagen and took some 40 pictures of the Dunlin material stored there. A few specimens are up to 120 years old, and were prepared under field conditions, they are not in a perfect state today. Some preparations are stained, some lack feather tracts and all are steeped in preservatives. In addition the brittleness and stiffness of the material obstruct any attempt to open the wing in order to take pictures of e.g. juvenile coverts or inner primaries. It's practically impossible to look for inner primary moult in adults - and saying that, i remember that Erwin Stresemann sometimes had to soften the skins sent to him with alcohol before he could study inner primaries... Last but not least, freehand photography is difficult in the rather drab environment, some auxiliary light would enhance the quality of pictures considerably. I will return with the necessary equipment, but pending that, i publish what i achieved so far, i find the pictures rather instructive, and watching them for a month or two will help me take better ones next time. (All pictures of Iceland schinzii were failures, i messed there). My sincere thanks to Jon Fjeldså , who kindly admitted me and gave me the necessary briefing. In order to have some logics in the presentation i start in Canada and move east, ending in Japan. [CP]

hudsonia, Canada

PICTURE 29: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue number 70.819, hudsonia 2c+ female, Churchill (c57° 05' N, 96° 30'W), Manitoba, Canada, 28.5.1931. The reddish back-feathers with grey-white edges and little black can also be seen in the last hudsonia link below. I think this is a purchased bird, prepared by some Canadian taxidermist. Churchill falls into the Hudson Bay. [CP]

arctica, Peary Land

PICTURE 30: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue number 47.973, arctica 2c+ male, Brönlunds Fjord (c82° 35' N, 31° W), Peary Land, N-Greenland, 15.6.1949. Dry and curved wing: 110.5 mm, dry bill: 24.6 mm. Dunlins don't get farther north than this; the area is not covered by the inland ice; arctic desert inhabited by Musk ox and Collared lemming. From the picture it's evident that the grey edges don't belong to unmoulted winter feathers (the way they do in picture 3 ); they are summer feathers from the prenuptial moult. The breast-streaking is not very dense, the belly-patch has much the same extent as in an ordinary schinzii. Seventy years ago the justification for an East Greenland subspecies Phalaropus fulicarius jourdaini was vehemently discussed, in that population, too, the paleness of the plumage in relation to more westerly populations was emphasized. I have seen half a dozen birds of this type in the Sound area; the eastern flank of this population may migrate due south by way of Svalbard, Björnöya and the Baltic Sea, or enter Scandinavia by flying against persistent easterly winds in autumn highs. Not many, it's just a trickle. [CP]

two arctica males, NE Greenland

PICTURE 31: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue numbers 2512 and 2482, arctica 2c+ males, "East Greenland" 17.6.1922 and Clavering Island (74° 05'-22' N, 21° 11'-16' W), NE Greenland, 23.5.1921. Dry and curved wings 112 and 113 mm, dry bills 24.9 and 26.0 mm. These birds, eight degrees to the south of the one shown in picture 30, have more yellow/orange, less grey, and remind us of the close ties between subspecies arctica and schinzii. At least two males from E Greenland were 2nd calendar; one from Clavering Island 1.6.22 (catalogue number 2485), one from Angmagssalik 12.5.1975 (catalogue number 67.137) [CP]

 arctica female, NE Greenland

PICTURE 32: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue number 2517, arctica 2c+ female, Carlshavn, Clavering Island, NE Greenland, 28.6.1922. Dry and curved wing: 116 mm, dry bill: 29.5 mm. Note the black cores of worn or nibbled back-feathers. There are some grey-edged feathers to each side, the fact that scapulars and surrounding feather tracts are less adorned in a female - the same way as in e.g.Calidris c. canutus - is also evident from the picture. [CP]

arctica, male and female, NE Greenland

PICTURE 33: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue numbers 2515 and ?, arctica male and female, "E Greenland" 28.6.1922 and Clavering Island, NE Greenland, 9.6.1921. Dry and curved wings 111 (male) and 113 mm, dry bills 26.0 (male) and 30.4 mm. The female head-feathers are darker than the male ones and she has broader streaks in the neck-band. There is some damage to the neck-skin of the male, possibly to that of the female as well. [CP]

alpina, male, Murmansk coast, Russia

PICTURE 34: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue number 7702, alpina male, "Murmansk coast" 27.6.1905. Dry and curved wing: 114 mm, dry bill: 29.1 mm. The picture shows how compact the belly-patch is as far to the west as in the Murmansk area. The streaking of the breast is moderate. [CP]

sakhalina, Tomsk area, Siberia

PICTURE 35: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue numbers 30.525, 30.527 and 30.528, sakhalina? males, Tomsk area 24.5.1905, 5.5.1915 and 0.5.1916; the last bird (right) was in its 2nd calendar year. Dry and curved wings: 112, 116,5 and 118,5 mm, dry bills: 30.0, 33.3 and 34.0 mm. Spassk is given as collecting site for the birds from 1915 and 1916, it lies some 450 kms SSE of Tomsk at an early tributary of the river Tom; Hans Johansen seems to have had contacts with a local collector here (Johansen himself was only 20 years old by then; i don't know when he began his odyssey in Central Asia). The birds are of eastern provenance, very reddish, with broad whitish or greyish edges to back feathers. ( Note the similarity to the bird in picture 19 , also see picture 43 ) . They look like "sakhalina", although measurements are short, possibly because all three are males, but a few millimetres of shrinkage may be involved, too. All "adult buff" that might have been there on median coverts is worn away in all three birds. By what way and from where did these May migrants arrive in S. Siberia, and in what direction were they going to continue? Both the Yenisei - and even more the Ob - would guide them into centralis and even eastern alpina territory. The birds shown are not eastern alpina , however, my best bid for e. a. and centralis in the Baltic are pictures 44 and 43 . The Altai and Mongolia lie to the south; there are a lot of lakes above 1000 m altitude in W Mongolia. [CP]

NOTE. Ferns and Green 1979 consider the grey edges an extremely ephemeral alpina characteristic: "This stage is transitory, however, since the grey fringes abrade rapidly to reveal the brighter colours underneath". It's obvious, however, that it may be present and still very striking by the end of May, in the Baltic, in S. Siberia. Also see picture 43 , there are some in pictures 44 and 45 as well.

Dunlin, Rokugo River, Japan

PICTURE 36: Zoologisk Museum, catalogue number 36.019, subspecies? , male, Rokugo (Tama) river, Tokyo Bay, Japan, 6.5.1927. Dry and curved wing: 125 mm, dry bill: 32.2 mm. Note the male neck-band! In spite of the dominance of deep chestnut colour, there are black centres with a tendency to forks in some back feathers. Cf picture 57. This bird is East Siberian or Alaskan, a true "Red-back" - Holmes' nickname for Alaskan Dunlin. Cf. right side of picture 17 . The complete state of the plumage indicates that it is ready to depart by May 6th. [CP]

schinzii, 3c+ male, S Sweden

PICTURE 37: Stockholm 337XX12, local 3c+ male, subspecies schinzii , Foteviken 22.4.07. Wing length 112 mm, bill length 26,2 mm; inner primary ranking "0" (>50 % of the outer vane on inner primaries dark), worn, old tertials and medians, distinct steps on white tips of inner primary coverts. This is the vanishing Meadow Dunlin, the one the Danes call "Engsryle" ("y" like in cylinder; the word "ryle" must be onomatopoetic). The bird has a cap and a distinct neckband: white ground-colour, fine black streaks. The orange back colour may be a shade too reddish in the picture, in that case an effect of shading and flashlight. Artificial light at the horizon made it possible for me to study this male for some time while it fed on a floating seaweed bank; it guarded a schinzii female (or she guarded him; i am never sure of which in Dunlin) but seemed to court a very large alpina/centralis female as well (Siberian, at least eastern alpina ; wing 126 mm, inner primary ranking "3", "adult buff" coverts - no buff left on worn medians, but on tertials ), she had just started her prenuptial moult and looked much like an oversized schinzii ... [The red focusing light from the camera makes the birds shut their eyes. It's a bonus, protects the bird's eyes from the flashlight.] [CP]

schinzii, 3c+ male, S Sweden

PICTURE 38: The same bird as in picture 37. I have seen quite a few schinzii males with larger belly-patches (cf. the front picture of this research report in Swedish - change of web address since i first entered it, a nuisance! ). arctica has white edges to the black breast-feathers (cf picture 30 ), too, while even the growing down of at least eastern alpina seems to lack such edges, this is what creates the immaculate "graphite-black" appearance of belly-patches in particular in eastern alpina. [CP]

schinzii, 3c+ female, S Sweden

PICTURE 39: Stockholm 352XX49, 3c+ female, subspecies schinzii , Foteviken 22.4.07. Wing length 117 mm, bill length 31,0 mm; inner primary ranking "0" (>75 % of the outer vane on inner primaries dark). There is no neckband, but the flashlight creates a sepia-coloured bright zone. The orange colour has the right shade - given nocturnal conditions, green background, artificial light. [CP]

schinzii, 3c+ female, S Sweden

PICTURE 40: The same bird as in Figure 39, there are no winter feathers left on crown or sides of head. And no neck-band, in that respect the picture can be trusted. Thick blotches on the throat, followed by the "patch", at least as many dark feathers as in the male, again the black belly-down is white-edged. "The Birds of the Western Palearctic" remarks: Cheeks and foreneck of schinzii often more extensively tinged buff than nominate alpina; female schinzii, especially, sometimes shows much cinnamon-buff on cheeks, sides of neck, foreneck and chest. Cf. picture 2 ! [CP]

PICTURE 41: "Sakhalina", ringed 1c, Chongming Island 9.10.04, controlled ibid. 27.9.06. All flight-feathers moulted. Note (A) broad white edge to inner primary coverts but no step in PC 1 and 2, tendency for droplets in PC 3 - 5, (B) white- or grey-edged carpal covert ( but many Chinese juveniles have white (or grey) edge to the carpal covert, most likely because a thin buff edge has been bleached or worn off; it's not a reliable adult criterion on its own. ), (C) remaining, both worn and unworn feathers from nuptial plumage, the feather pointed at might have been nibbled, suggesting: female. White reaching rhachis in P1 - 4, not in 5. Some European birds inhibit the body moult at this stage and retain a few chestnut feathers at the base of the wing well into spring (juveniles do it, too). This bird has adult buff coverts (inset, upper right corner); a very light hue and a very thin edge, already dented. But not the fox-red edges to tertials that often is the other aspect of adult buff medians! (So the earlier comment here was in error, CP:s fault, but he adds: that bird doesn't have much "abc" to boast of...! On the other hand, such birds occur in the Baltic, too, easy to overlook). It should be added: "adult buff" edges - if they have been present - are completely worn off in spring , the only sign left of the "abc" character will be the red-edged innermost tertial/tertials and tertial covert(s) (cf e.g. pictures 8 , 45 and 51 ), which is a bit confusing, leading to some 3c+ birds being aged 2c by even experienced workers. Red-edged tertials can be seen in supposed 3c+ birds at Chongming in spring, too, the same way they occur in 3c+ birds with inner primary ranking "3" in the Baltic in May; this is what is left of the "adult buff" character in many birds by then - or alternatively: new "adult buff" tertials are grown then. In general one should try to use two complementary criteria (medians, carpal covert, tips of inner PC, wear) when ageing adults. Photo: Jimmy Choi. [JC, CP, corrected 16.4.08]

alpina, 2c male, Ljunghusen18May

PICTURE 42: On 17.5.2007, a low with a rain front came to a halt over S. Sweden, releasing an average May rainfall in less than 24 hours. Waders arriving from different directions: Phalaropes, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Sanderlings and Dunlins, all heading into this rain, were grounded. In particular in the night 17 - 18 May large flocks of a rather unusual composition rested on seaweed banks of Falsterbo Peninsula. The majority of Dunlins were western alpina with medium-sized, divided belly-patches, the whole cohort weighing 58.5 - 75.5 g, average 65.3 ± 3.6 g (n=24), females outnumbering males by 2:1 - much the same weight mean and sex ratio repeated on May 21st. These birds were not going far (by Dunlin standards), their energy reserves would take them at most some 2,500 kilometres nonstop, and i think the true journey ahead of them was only a little more than 1,500 kilometres. And the next day, on May 19th, they had excellent tailwinds! The pictures show Stockholm 352XX55, 2c male, inner primary ranking "0", note the hanging neck "peak" of the cap, discernable also in picture 44 . Some belly-patch down has faint white edges.

(A similar but "inverted" situation occurred on 23 August 2008, with migration approaching from the north; two lows from the Continent merging and drowning a.o. Falsterbo for a full day with 62 mm of rain, grounding enormous amounts of warblers and flycatchers throughout Scania. This is a situation to look out for near migration peaks). [CP]

eastern alpina, 3c+ female, Ljunghusen18May

PICTURE 43: Four birds from May 18th were of distinct eastern origin, however, and among these one bird carrying a ring had been a visitor to Hungary before (1c Hungary 1999, Italy August 2002, very worn primaries, possibly from flying sand; let us say that it came from Tunisia). Shown here is Stockholm 352XX74, 3c+ female, inner primary ranking "3". It's a lousy freehand picture under lamp light, 50 ASA, 1/3 second, focus on the table - and it's the only one i have, the camera batteries went dry. (The picture has been digitally "sharpened"). The back pattern is strongly reminiscent of the patterns in pictures 17 , 19 and 35 - birds from the Far East. Spring visitors to the Baltic looking like this have 4,000 rather than 3,000 kilometres ahead of them; the fat reserves of some cover the full journey, the reserves of others don't. In the brackish Baltic, fat accumulation is a difficult task in spring, a matter of around-the-clock feeding - facilitated by the fact that there are no tides, but increasing the predation risk. In 2007, however, there was a relief for waders since Diptera larvae were well established in wrack beds, due to the warm April. Still, one must ask: why did some Dunlin choose the Baltic instead of the Black Sea as a staging area in 2007 - and by what route did they arrive? The simultaneous presence of Sanderling and Charadrius hiaticula tundrae in numbers was unusual and impressive, too; illustrating the opportunist element in the choice of staging areas. All adaptations begin as dynamic responses to changing environmental conditions, birds "select themselves" by more or less appropriate dynamic actions (a collective response) rather than "getting selected". [CP]

eastern alpina, 3c+ male, Ljunghusen26May

PICTURE 44: Stockholm 342XX92, 3c+ male, Ljunghusen 26.5.07; inner primary ranking "3", not a trace of "adult buff" coverts, and medians are surprisingly unworn. This is the eastern alpina, staging en masse in the northern parts of the Waddensea and departing from there somewhere after May 25th. When grounded by thunderstorms in the Öresund (Sound) area, they still have their Waddensea weights, in this case 83.5 g (i think such a bird, carrying as much fat as it can carry, has some difficulty in manoeuvring in turbulent air, it economizes best with the fuel if it weathers the storm). I suggest it is heading for the Kara Sea, or at most Yamal Peninsula, that makes 3000 kms, or a little more. If it doesn't encounter adverse conditions it should still weigh more than 50 g on arrival. (In 2001 four authors concluded that "Arctic" waders aren't capital breeders, but northern waders, even non-Arctic waders, do bring capital: a carbon hydrate store for heating and movement, used by males in display, assisting females when collecting fat and protein for the eggs. Northern-boreal and Arctic waders are capital breeders, insofar as the hen arrives, fit and ready, before the egg). [CP]

Taiwan, May5th

PICTURE 45: The Taiwan Wader Study Group , like all ringing groups on the Australasian Flyway , uses leg-flags and tries to spot leg-flags from other schemes; more than 2,000 Dunlin have been marked in this way the last ten years. Many birds have been ringed in recent years at Hanbou, a marsh or pond area near the city Changhwa on the west coast, facing the Chinese mainland. Hanbou lies behind a protecting dike and possibly serves as a high-tide resting area, beyond the dike there are tidal beaches, preferred foraging areas at low-tide for species like Dunlin and Turnstone. The picture shown here was taken on May 5th 2005 at Hanbou, it shows a Dunlin in prenuptial moult, with one fresh red/chestnut-edged tertial and two old worn ones, the two coverts following the tertials are also fresh and red/chestnut-edged, the innermost one has been a little displaced. The body moult is still not complete, there are winter feathers left on upper back, neck and head. This might be a sign of extreme northern provenance, but my experience from the Baltic also is that females lag behind a little in plumage development relative to males. The adorning edges of back feathers are quite remarkable with vast black areas, deep chestnut and broad grey edges, and i would suggest again: gender is probably involved; see e.g. the left side of picture 17 and picture 32 . The neck is most definitely female. Outer medians are worn and are not going to be exchanged, but the fresh innermost tertial and tertial coverts have the same pattern as in the bird of picture 8 , and i think we have a case of adult buff coverts here; even a spring replacement leading to "adult buff". It is difficult to assign single birds to subspecies in the current sakhalina-kistchinski-arcticola confusion, but the very black nuptial feathers (no chestnut indentations) of this bird should be diagnostic in some direction. Some biometry might be of help (to clear the gender question): maximum wing, culmen, weight! The picture was kindly submitted by Chung-Yu Chiang/TWSG, the text was slightly corrected on 12.7.09.
I took an almost identical bird, a 3c+ male with the two innermost tertials + one tertial covert fresh and with broad adult buff edges in Ljunghusen on 20 May 2010; i think that settles the matter. (I forgot my camera at home, no pics of that one, alas). [CP]


PICTURE 46: As a contribution to the discussion of how and when and where to see "adult buff" coverts ( pictures 4 , 7 , 8 and 45 ): Stockholm 352XX00, 2c male?, Skanör 8.8.07. Droplet coverts, very, very pale "adult buff" medians , inner primary ranking = "0" ; P1 - 6 fresh, P7 0.7 (the most advanced moult state recorded so far in 2007), also note the "shade" of old P7 on P8 (picture 47 below). The bird was ripe to shed S1, too - i forgot to check. The two longest tertials are old, worn and pointed, so what we see here are fresh chestnut-edged tertial coverts + probably fresh shortest tertial. Chestnut edges indicated with broad red lines, pale "adult buff" with narrow yellow lines. This picture strongly suggests that the "adult buff" feature won't last long in medians, while its chestnut manifestations will be visible on some protected parts of the tertials well into the next spring. Note that the two innermost and some outer fresh medians even lack the buffish hue, also note how the extent of subsequent wear is "pre-marked" in fresh medians. A very prominent winter covert catches the eye up to the left; there is no way of telling if it's old or fresh (I think it is fresh). Dawn picture with sunlight shaded by the photographer's body. [CP]


PICTURE 47: The same bird as in picture 46 from a slightly different angle; the two worn tertials can be seen. The six fresh primaries can also be discerned to the right - and do i see fresh S1 and S2? Also note the very black and possibly nibbled back-feathers; they are the reason for the question-mark after the sexing. The scapulars are old and worn, but still from the summer plumage, not winter. When investigating a "rich" bird like this at 5 o'clock in the morning, the field-worker should follow a strict schedule, since he is likely to be tired, and forgetful, after a hard day's night. [CP]


PICTURE 48: Stockholm 352XX02, 3c+ female, eastern? alpina, inner primary ranking = "3" , Ljunghusen 9.5.08. Note grey-tipped carpal covert (low left) from last autumn (the next one must be the carpal remicle, acting as first primary covert, in this case it has a very thin white edge), and white reaching rhachis on P1 - 4. The step between inner and outer web of PC (centre) is not very pronounced, but it is there. Do 3c+ PC have more rounded tips than juvenile ones (these seem to be more chisel-shaped) - cf next picture? The 3c+ carpal covert in turn seems to be more squarely cut (cf. pictures 8 , 13 , 18 , 41 ). This bird had blotches rather than streaks on lower throat and breast, no adult buff medians. Early morning light shaded by the photographer's body. [CP]


PICTURE 49: Stockholm 352XX03, 2c male, western alpina, IPR = 0 , Ljunghusen 10.5.08. The cap wasn't finished, still winter feathers on the centre of crown. A bird with very fresh plumage; no wear in half a dozen distinctly juvenile inner medians, and the buff tips of the carpal covert (low left) and carpal remicle/PC1 still being very prominent (cf picture 14 ). The carpal covert is often the last ageing resource in migrants with fresh P1 - P5 (and fresh PC1 - PC5!) in late July/early August, in particular this applies to birds with "adult buff" medians, where the buff edge from juvenile plumage may be quite pronounced. Most western alpina juveniles have more white on the carpal covert, and just a very thin buff edge; in those cases, when there is some wear or bleaching, the CC is not very helpful in age-determination. PC 2 and 3, to the right, have the characteristic juvenile pattern with white edge equally broad on both sides of the shaft. Chinese 2nd calendar birds - for one example - seem to be much more worn and faded in May (i have seen a few thousand pictures of hand-held Shanghai birds; in general ageing is perfectly possible, but more difficult than in Europe already from late autumn; the juvenile buff edges to inner medians are gradually shaved off). The same goes for Alaskan 2c breeding birds (cf. picture 21 ). Maybe there is an overlooked necessity behind the early moult of E Siberian and Alaskan birds on breeding-grounds; exposed flight-feathers of many first-time breeders in the Pacific area are barely functional by July. And: because of the flight display, male primaries and rectrices get more worn than those of females - so it's advantageous for a male to be unworn by May 10th, he can perform over arctic bog a few days later! Picture taken in unshaded reddish early dawn light. [CP]

possible arctica

PICTURE 50: Stockholm 352XX75, 2c female, arctica?, IPR = 0 , Skanör, Ängsnäset 27.7.08. P1 shed, grown 80%, wing length 116 mm, bill length 33,3 mm. The Dunlin migration by way of Öresund in July 2008 had contained practically no eastern elements up to this date, dominated by undersized alpina , probably from Norway and Sweden, or even some schinzii , from Iceland, which i am only gradually beginning to realise. There are rumours of a West Siberian breeding catastrophe, or a very poor breeding start, but this obviously happens at intervals, the waders may be forced to lay under harsh conditions in order to "anticipate" a coming peak of arthropod prey for their offspring. The prevailing easterly winds in July must have contributed to the poor migration as well, guiding Siberian populations on more southerly routes than usual. By July 27th, with high temperatures and moderate easterly winds, the wader migration had come to a standstill, but i took this single bird in a futile catching attempt. I was struck by its very pale orange and whitish edges to back feathers and the "imprints" of each primary on the following, probably caused by intense 24-hours-a-day exposure to sunlight. The contour of primary 6 (dark, below) on 7 is marked by a red line, etc, primary 10 is almost hidden behind 9, but it, too, carries the contour of P9 at its lower edge. Compare picture 30 , picture 31 , picture 32 and picture 33 . (The blackish cores of back-feathers get exaggerated, an effect of flashlight exposure at a right angle in darkness). The plumage indicates that this could be an arctica bird, from Svalbard or Greenland, i think a clearcut Iceland schinzii wouldn't have had the white edges (i was able to refresh my knowledge with quite a lot of schinzii birds at the same site on 29 July). Both pictures taken with flashlight in the middle of the night, neither is 100 % focused, but i have no better ones. The subspecies arctica is not included in the Swedish check-list. I have some idea how the arctica juveniles look, too; if i'm right, they are very rare visitors to S Sweden in September, maybe entering Skagerack and Kattegatt after flying east against easterly winds when approaching Norway. On the other hand, it takes very little easterly displacement at 75 - 80° N to bring an arctica into the Baltic by way of North Norway; the distance E Greenland - Svalbard is only some 700 kms at 80° N. (On the "disturbance" side, storms from NW still retain the upper hand in our area). Picture slightly sharpened digitally. [CP]

NOTE 1. There seem to be some very faded feathers on the bird of picture 47 , a Siberian bird. And it has an imprint of P6 on P7! Unfortunately, i have no notes, nor do i know if exposure or flashlight are involved, there are a lot of red sunlight reflections from the ground; it's very early morning, how can the pic be so bright, and isn't there some reflection from the wing-band? The bird in itself seems to have been very pale, and everything else has the colour i remember, though. In general Russian birds have non-faded chestnut edges when occurring in the Baltic in July, see e.g. pictures 4 , 7 and 8 and 10 , and when they finally materialized in 2008 there was again some good chestnut colouring. But also see the strongly bleached bird of picture 58 . A juvenile from 16.9.09 with bill-length 23.8 mm is my best bid so far for an arctica in the Öresund area; the accompanying migration wave gave a retrap from Finland, indicating arrival via the Bothnian Gulf, and Svalbard rather than Greenland origin. (The Norwegian Sunnmöre Ringing Group has flagged Svalbard Dunlin at Longyearbyen the last few years; a 2012 juvenile was sighted at Getterön, Halland 10.9 and 12.9.12, a 2011 juvenile sighted at Oset, Närke 17.8 and 18.8.2013, so subspecies arctica can be added to the Swedish list, adults in August, juveniles in September, and should be determined in the hand, where possible. Homepage of Sunnmöre RG.) [CP]

NOTE 2. After winters with much precipitation Swedish Lapland has "Siberian" conditions at 1000 m altitude, too; Dunlin often stand waiting for the melting of snow and ice-cover till well after midsummer, and under very harsh conditions. Together with Peter Olsson i saw one such instance at Räker and the Vuorek plateau (Vuorekjaure 1002 m a.s.l., between Adolfström and Ammarnäs) on 25 June 1998; the marshy area was covered by a shield of ice and wouldn't be available for breeding for at least ten days (or more likely: not at all), but Dunlin males were displaying. Further down, at 800 m, Long-tailed Skua and Common Sandpiper were already brooding. The option to forage at lower altitudes - only a few minutes flight away - could be the precondition that allows succesful breeding on high mountain plateaus in Lapland. In Siberia estuaries with running water could serve foragers in the same way. [CP].


PICTURE 51: Stockholm 352XX00, 2c male?, eastern alpina or "centralis", Falsterbo peninsula 31.7.08; inner primary ranking = "3" , mixture of fresh grey, white-tipped and "adult buff" median coverts (not shown), P1 - 3 fresh. Two vertical red bars indicate two rather unworn, brown-edged inner coverts from juvenile plumage (slightly wind-ruffled), one horizontal red bar a fresh, cross-cut tertial covert (or maybe S15 itself) with "adult buff" (chestnut) edge. The bird had little or no neck-band, the edges of feathers in the scapular region are rather faded. Picture taken against the sky in early dawn light. [CP]


PICTURE 52: From Stein Ørjan Nilsen, Norsk Polarinstitutt a picture of a Dunlin taken at Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 27 June 2007 at 22.47h (Canon EOS 20D, 300 mm lens, 200 ASA, 1/250, F6.3; low sun, in pictures from other angles the flashlight was released). He suggests that the broad white edges to the black belly-patch down are diagnostic for arctica , i'm not so sure of that (we'd like to hear informed opinions on that point!), i think most NW European schinzii have white edges, too, and some western alpina have at least narrow white edges in May-June. But the whole back pattern is arctica as well; grey and white fringes and very pale orange. The streaking of the breast at least isn't southern schinzii , i will add some pictures of Iceland representatives of that subspecies here soon. Note the short bill ([Neck - corner of mouth] : [corner of mouth - tip] = c1 : 1, much the same as the small male of picture 1 , with culmen 28.8 mm); i was immediately struck by the stout, Purple Sandpiper-like appearance. The reflection from low, sweeping light was cut down by a fraction, to counteract the impression that all whiteness is caused by reflection. I am very glad for this picture, many thanks to Stein! He has recently offered a score of pictures of both adult and juvenile birds from these northern latitudes, they are very instructive. The Svalbard population size has been quoted as "10 - 100 pairs" for a couple of decades now (i doubt that such a "population" can be self-sustaining), but as a matter of fact no one really knows its size. [CP]

schinziifemale 1

PICTURE 53: Stockholm 357XX83, 3c+ female?, schinzii, inner primary ranking = "0" , Foteviken 23.4.09. (A breeding bird, although drought - no rain in April - is likely to inhibit or spoil its breeding in 2009). There is no immediate evidence for neither sex nor age; a faint, sepia-coloured neckband (i noted the same sepia-coloured neckband in a 3c+ schinzii male of Finnish origin on 30.4.10) and white tips to inner primary coverts equally wide on both sides of shaft. These tips are very broad, however, i would say no 1c/2c bird has that broad ones - and the carpal covert is unworn, grey-tipped! Note that 50 % or more of outer vane on inner primaries is dark. The back has few orange-coloured adornments, most coverts showing dominant dark cores, i am getting more and more convinced that this is a female character (the same way as in Calidris c. canutus; cf. pictures 17, 32, and 39). Finally note white edges to black belly-feathers and blotches above the well-developed belly-spot. Cf. picture 40, showing another 3c+ schinzii female from the same area, and picture 38, showing how poorly developed the belly-patch is in some schinzii. In some females it lacks altogether. [CP]
(I let the original texts of pics 53 and 54 stand, for pedagogical reasons). This bird was controlled as a breeding bird at Foteviken in April 2011, it was observed copulating with a female, and the sexing was genetically confirmed: male. See picture 54, too. Peter Olsson, working with the dwindling Scanian schinzii population adds the following comment: As far as i can see, plumage characters are not diagnostic (for sex) in local birds. Some males are very typical, others very untypical. In some the neck-band may lack completely. Certain males are very pale, showing less contrast in their plumage than many females do.

schinziifemale 2

PICTURE 54: The same bird as in picture 53, facial view. The very whitish face has some general male features, but no neckband is indicated from this angle. Cf. picture 40, giving a facial view of a more typical schinzii female, also see e.g. pictures picture 2 and picture 6 (alpina birds). I believe Dunlin females tend to have more whitish faces with age. (This bird could pass for a southern and western alpina, but maybe the blotches are "too much" schinzii). Within ten years we'll have no breeding schinzii in south Scania; the easing of the Swedish shore/beach protection legislation for petty municipal purposes has had catastrophic consequences throughout the country. The meadow where this bird might have bred was crisscrossed with sulky tracks, from the training of trotters from nearby "horse farms". This possible breeding-ground for threatened Southern Dunlins is neither properly protected nor managed; one of many recent Swedish violations of the EU environmental directives. [CP]

I get lots of pictures from field ornithologists, who simply want to share their own observation of some plumage character in Dunlin, i'm always happy for those communications. The most recent one is from Alvaro Jaramillo, author of "Birds of Chile" and living in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. He noted a rather dark and reddish Dunlin among resting pacifica near Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay on 25 April 2009, and sent me four pictures, i in turn am going to share them with a wider audience here, with comments. It may turn out that there was more than one raisin in Alvaro's cake: many thanks to him for a quick and adept reaction, triggered by intuition! Next i challenge California's Dunlin watchers: who will give me a picture showing the average extent of breast spots in a "good" 1y pacifica in winter plumage?

california april dunlin

PICTURE 55: Pillar Point, California, 25 April 2009. Flickering air and spray impeded the photographer and there is some underexposure in both pics, i have corrected them a little. The right hand bird has more streaks (and small blotches) on the breast, darker cap and deeper chestnut and black wing coverts than the left one. The latter in turn has a whiter face and more orange hue on back and mantle than the right one, still i am not sure; both birds could come from the same population, and maybe not in the Nearctic. (Compare these ones, whatever they are, British Columbia 20.4.04; Dunlin colours have a period of extreme brilliance and saturation even in North America). At any rate, there is a "screaming" pacifica with the "Mealy Redpoll" (Carduelis hornemanni) appearance of that subspecies in picture 56 below. Cf. pictures 24 and 25 by Pavel Tomkovich, a month later in the calendar. (One should always keep in mind that reddish hues are affected by the quality of the light and its main angle of inclination; the overall collection of pictures bears ample evidence of that. In the past some daylight "films" produced a red cast when used indoors. When it comes to it, there are actually similarities to the bird of picture 25, maybe Alvaro's birds were shot at a much lower Kelvin temperature than Pavel's. But there is an undeniable difference between the indivduals, too. ). So what about the swarthy one to the right; is it an arcticola, a straggler to California, since this subspecies migrates to East Asia, or even a sakhalina? Note the black "forks" on the coverts; such forks are rather common in Palearctic birds, i haven't seen them in pacifica so far. Also note the wear in greater coverts and scapulars, little more than shafts remain; by all likelihood the dark bird is in its second calendar year, moulting into breeding plumage for the first time. Most of the mantle seems to be unmoulted, winter. (I wouldn't be overly surprised if i caught such a bird in the Baltic.) A general question here: does pacifica as a rule breed in its 2nd calendar year? Next, let's have a look at an orthodox pacifica from the same day. [CP]

california pacifica from april

PICTURE 56: Pillar Point, California, 25 April 2009. The greater coverts have some structure left, so possibly 3c+, and the subspecies is typical pacifica. Rather pale, not much contrast on the head, schinzii-like orange hue to the mantle. Short bill for a pacifica, the maximum length in this subspecies is 43.5 mm. Note that it hasn't attained 100 % breeding plumage yet; there are winter coverts in the wing, and the belly-patch needs some amendment. (A close look reveals that many of the grey-tipped coverts are actually nuptial; three - four may be winter). If there is going to be some cap, it will come later, but not even Tomkovich's bird from late May has much of a cap. A beautiful picture, like an old handbook illustration! [CP]

california pacifica from april

PICTURE 57: Pillar Point, California, 25 April 2009: a Dunlin in nuptial plumage, digging in its toes to counter tailwind. It has a striking chestnut hue on back and lower mantle, practically no black at the centres of feathers (only shaft-streaks), grey edges to many coverts (these grey edges will abrade soon), reminiscent of picture 36 from Japan/May, a true "Redback". The belly-patch seems to be complete, but i'm not sure about the rear crown and neck; there may be winter-feathers still. The breast - what can be seen of it - has fine but rather dense streaks. Concluding: there is some spread in plumage features of Californian Dunlins in spring, all are not "Mealy Redpoll". The question is: how close can a pacifica get to arcticola plumage? And to hudsonia ...? Or - i say this after reading the Chinese comment - maybe our main concern should be with sakhalina instead? [CP]

A comment from Jimmy Choi, Fudan University: I have a colleague here (Xiangyu Jinggong) working on dunlin subspecies, and he strongly believes that those California Dunlin are not entirely pacifica, but include sakhalina (see Wenink & Baker 1996 for evidence; Beringia haplotypes were found in Californian samples but not from arcticola and pacifica's breeding grounds). Very interesting picture indeed, but all you need is to catch this bird!!! CP:s comment: This implies that some sakhalina cross the path of arcticola in the Bering Straits. Both migrating rather late, with moulted flight-feathers; in August - September. (But i would like to have a look at the adult sakhalina, arriving half-moulted at some Nearctic moulting-ground in July... That was an even longer shot, maybe wider, too.)

bleached scapular coverts

PICTURE 58: Stockholm 357XX65, 2c female, Skanör 29.7.09. Wing length 126 mm, bill length 35.5, inner primary ranking "0", three primaries moulted; this was an alpina bird, and i think: from European Russia, close to the Urals longitude. The bleaching of the chestnut portions of scapular coverts is extreme, and some chemical agent must be involved: ground ozone or industrial emissions (i suggest: from papermills, aluminium smelters close to hydroelectric plants). I have noted the same extent of bleaching in Knots, probably of subspecies Calidris canutus canutus, passing the Öresund area in August. This subspecies has almost yellowish mantle fringes in advance, however. [CP]

unmoulted carpal covert

PICTURE 59: Stockholm 357XX75, 2c male?, Skanör 29.7.09. P1 - 4 and coverts connected to them fresh. The carpal remicle/PC1 has the blackish gloss of a fresh feather, but above it the carpal covert is more brownish (like the secondary coverts) and worn at the edge, it hasn't been exchanged yet and will be shed with the outermost secondary coverts. In spite of fresh "adult buff" medians (to the left), the carpal covert is white-edged in this 2nd calendar bird, however. Normally the most buff-edged 2c CCs occur in connection with adult buff. So a white-edged CC should always serve as a memento: are inner medians really juvenile or are they as a matter of fact "adult buff"? Flashlight exposure with some reflexion. [CP]

juvenile carpal covert

PICTURE 60: Stockholm 357XX34, 1c, inner primary ranking = "0", Falsterbo peninsula 11.9.09. Buff-edged carpal covert and carpal remicle, unworn juvenile wing coverts to the left. Also see picture 49, the same juvenile character in an unworn spring bird, and pictures 59 and 23, with some moult considerations. [CP]

mystery bird

PICTURE 61: ringed ???????, 3c+, bird detected by Jacques le Baill and pictures taken by P. V. Vandenweghe at Mousterlin, Finistère, France 18.4.10. The bird looks very standard alpina, chestnut and grey, black feather centres with a tendency to forks, and most of its prenuptial moult is completed, rather early in the season. 3c+ PC upper left, ring aperture lower right. With twice as many pixels the ring itself might have been readable. But the scheme lying behind this ringing remains a mystery, maybe it's not active any longer? The combination is RIGHT: metal/yellow, LEFT: yellow/red. The metal ring is rather coarse, thick, wavy at the edges, it's not Swedish, not Finnish, and i think: a fraction too small to come from UK or Poland. Possibly old German Democratic Republic, Baltic states, Eastern Europe, Ukraine. On 16 June Oficina de Anillamiento de Aranzadi answered: not Spanish. And on 20 July from Dra. Eva Banda, Coordinadora Oficina de Especies Migratorias: "Plastic rings and special marks are not under our responsibility in this office. Unfortunately we don't have that data base in our computers; nevertheless I will forward your e-mail to the Estación Biológica de Doņana (anillamiento@ebd.csic.es), responsible of such rings and marks." On 8 September the mystery was solved; the bird was ringed in la Esperanza Salt Pans, Puerto Real, Cádiz on 20.2.06. Francisco Hortas Rodriguez Pascual stands as front figure of the project; combinations of three colour-rings and a metal ring will be used on Calidris alpina, Calidris ferruginea and Calidris minuta. The metal ring scheme is Icona, Madrid. Like many projects this one seems to have begun without announcing itself in advance. In September 2010 birds from at least one Polish Dunlin project: white ring with engraved letter + 2 numerals, were puzzling North European observers for a time, here is a link to the source: WRG Kuling. [CP]

chestnutedges to tertial covert

PICTURE 62: ringed STOCKHOLM 357XX76, 2c+ male, Falsterbo Peninsula 14.8.10. IPR 2 - 3, five primaries fresh in one wing (plus a full gap), six primaries fresh in one wing. Weight 39 g, the bird was fat-free; such low weights make flying with gaps easier - but birds vulnerable. There are broad chestnut edges to the largest tertial covert, denoted by a red "V", and an odd feather in the right wing (red line) with much the same pattern, on the other hand no visible ornaments on the tertials proper. I suggest these feathers are grown (a little randomly, not always symmetrical) in the prenuptial moult in May, in a sense "mimicking" the prevalent pattern of the back. In that case there is some fundamental "pre-pattern", more or less valid for a particular plumage, that is stamped - and modified - on all feathers exchanged in a particular moult (or at least on all feathers belonging to or adjacent to a certain feather tract. So, judging from this case, tertial coverts are "more back than wing").
At any rate, nuptial feathers in the wing are an oddity, a little puzzling since they have much the same structure as "adult buff" edges to tertials. Their ornament is broader than adult buff edges, however, with a sharper delimitation, and in the present case it is more deeply chestnut-coloured. This bird had no "adult buff" tendencies whatsoever in newly grown medians, and i could find no remaining 2c coverts; still, judging from its advanced moult, it was probably in its second calendar-year. Note the two growth-lines near the base of the right tertial covert, and on the single feather, they are typical of feathers grown in the night or under starvation stress during the nest-period in juveniles, but i will eat my hat if that feather is a juvenile feather. It could have been grown on breeding-grounds, in June, birds often starve a little there. These lines show how members of certain C. a. alpina populations are up against their limits; there is barely food and energy to include marginal feathers in the nuptial plumage. Rather, the prenuptial moult is full of suspensions or arrests in these populations. [CP]

adult buff coverts in taiwan

PICTURE 63: 2c+, Han Pao, Changhua Co, Taiwan 24.10.10. From Chung-Yu Chiang, TWSG (picture 45) another interesting picture of "adult buff" edges to the largest tertial coverts, some median and small coverts. It's obvious that the distribution of adult buff often is a little "patchy"; in this case (and others i have seen in Sweden) an area of inner median/small coverts remains entirely grey. This observation again raises the possibility that "adult buff" edges are produced during a particular part of the annual cycle (on breeding-grounds) under a particular "hormone regime". Could this bird be a recent arrival to Taiwan from e.g. the kistchinski or true sakhalina breeding area? Jimmy Choi - Chinese Dunlin specialist, now working with Bar-tailed Godwits in New Zealand and China - notes in passing: it's obvious that Taiwan sites have more "adult buff" birds than any site in mainland China. Brightness of the original picture increased by some 20 %. (Who offers the first pic of a Dunlin with distinct, ostensible "adult buff" from North America?) [CP]

adult buff coverts in taiwan

PICTURE 64: More clues to the above bird: "droplets" on primary covert tips (red "V"), fresh, grey-edged carpal covert and carpal remicle, white reaching the shaft of at least pps. 3 and 4 (red vertical bars). And last but not least: a few remaining feathers from the adult belly-patch! Many thanks to Chung-Yu Chiang for these pictures; everyone seeing them applauds the fact that he "got it all"! The left part of the pic slightly darkened in order to increase the contrast between white and black. [CP]

I can see that this particular document is being increasingly viewed by Asian and American Dunlin workers; i am the target of a slow downfall of field pics from all over the northern hemisphere. The sad thing is that i can use so little of that material, because nothing is known about the provenance of the enigmatic birds shown. At this stage - after having presented some basic material - i prefer Dunlin pics from the breeding areas, or birds from migration and wintering with some likely subspecific designation.

There still are field "problems", where some expanded knowledge might be helpful. For example: all Asian and Nearctic Dunlin populations seem to experience better conditions for moult than European populations; there is time and food for moult already on breeding-grounds. Maybe there are fewer compromises in the overall schedule as a consequence, so that e.g. juveniles moult more completely? Brennan et al. 1984 were leaning on and referring to Prater, Marchant and Vuorinen 1977 when ageing juveniles of the subspecies pacifica, apparently prepared to adopt the European moult pattern(s) for Nearctic birds - but their description of the method wasn't confidence-inspiring: they quoted "inner tertials" (these may be quite worn after New Year) while the text in Prater et al. mentions "inner medians". It would be very interesting to see relevant (focused on relevant parts) pictures of inner primaries, medians, primary coverts and juvenile feathers in general from the subspecies sakhalina, kistchinski, actites, arcticola, pacifica, hudsonia and arctica!

And the faces of sexes! If i get such material, i will either comment on a picture myself, or publish picture + comment (+ copyright note, if this is desired) - and comment on the comment where this is called for. All will be done in cooperation with each contributor.

A third example: from the original paper by Gromadzka 1989 it's e.g. evident that sakhalina has "adult buff" coverts at some stage of the annual cycle. How about the Nearctic populations, in particular those migrating SW, by way of Japan, Korea and China (link 1, link 2)? Even if adult buffs are worn away in these areas already in autumn, they pop up anew with the growth of tertials in prenuptial moult, causing some confusion.

There is another theme of subspecific determination, the white on inner primaries, i learnt my basics here, including the ranking-scale, from Wlodek Meissner. Pavel Tomkovich once told me that Japanese workers ranked sakhalina when studying them on breeding-grounds in Siberia. This approach is not going to be of any use if there is no cline (groups of birds with different average rankings) in the material. So, what were the Japanese results, which primaries did they study? And what is the pattern of Nearctic populations on inner primaries? Arcticola has white to the shafts of inner primaries, as could be expected, but how about the rest of the Nearctic subspecies?

Next follows the general problem of subspecific determination based on other plumage characters in HUDSONIA-PACIFICA-ARCTICOLA . The web offers a lot of semi-instructive pictures, e.g. Angus Wilson's 2c hudsonia from New York, winter, Jean Iron's of a hudsonia in breeding plumage from Lake Erie, Canada 8.5.2006 (bright-faced, white-tipped back feathers). And best of all: a picture by Mario Lavoie from Ste-Pétronille, St Lawrence, Quebec 27.5.05. But one could wish for ten times as much, it would be very helpful! (Added here a site showing the distribution of hudsonia.) From British Columbia Mike Yip's offers a pacifica, 20.4.2004; chestnut, black, white on back feathers, almost fish-scale structure (like in a Knot), in addition i have found two pictures from US Fish and Wildlife Service, i guess they show an arcticola. The best arcticola picture available is in a poster by Robert Gill and Rick Lanctot, describing the fieldwork at Barrow, Alaska in 2005; very whitish face in a male, fine streaks on breast (warning: this is a slow server).

Next ACTITES-SAKHALINA: Pictures of the "Sakhalin dunlin" Calidris alpina actites can be seen in Assessment of the impact of fauna of the pipeline connected with the "Sakhalin-2" project. These pictures are of poor quality and allow no morphological conclusions, but the habitat descriptions are of great interest. Three good Japanese pictures on Stint Fan from 14.5.06 could show "sakhalina" in breeding plumage, two other Japanese pictures from May are also on this site; cf. mantle feathers of pictures 16 and 18 above, also note absence of cap and light breast-streaking. A light-faced, but alas rather unsharp sakhalina can be seen in Ruud & Kitty Kampf's homepage, a better sakhalina picture from breeding grounds at Anadyr, Chukchi Peninsula 11.7.06 is offered by Augusto Faustino on Oriental Bird Images (a nearly ten-day-old juvenile was obviously ringed the same day, hatching only a few days earlier than Dunlin breeding >800 m a.s.l. in N. Lappland, Sweden).

And finally: SCHINZII-ARCTICA: From Palaearctic areas we have Dick Newell's alas rather unsharp pictures of a Svalbard bird in breeding plumage; 12.7.2002, it is white-edged on back feathers, and short-billed - but gender may be involved. His pictures on magikbirds.com are better; they show arctica birds from Longyearbyen, 12.7.02, referring to "Birds of the Western Palearctic" to confirm the subspecies determination. From Alftaness, Iceland three pictures by Gudmundur Geir (note the instructive young bird), four other Iceland pictures are by Jakob Sigurdsson; note heavy streaks (dots, blotches) on breast and yellowish mantle fringes in schinzii birds - but there is some variation, and i'm not sure that all pictures show schinzii. Finally a probable schinzii from Ireland, a bird in summer plumage 2.8.05, by John N. Murphy. A possible arctica from Caithness 26.5.06 belongs here, note very light edges to back feathers, small belly patch. A second picture from the same locality, 11.5.06, four specimens, and i assume all four are considered to belong to the Greenland subspecies. There is some breast-streaking (as much as in one of Sigurdsson's Icelandic pictures) and some belly-patch, but the pixel content of the pictures is low, magnification doesn't add more detail. Schinzii breeds in the Caithness area, too.

I could add a sort of concluding warning: in general i can see that most of the breeding-area pictures (from all over the world) show birds standing on their toes, stretching whitish necks, watching intently, even trilling. They depict males disturbed in their territories, the Dunlin female remains an incognito being.

I feel pretty safe about my webmail address cpsweden@gmail.com, Google can handle spam, so use that address in communication! [CP]

  • To "Studies of migrating Dunlin Calidris alpina in the Sound area, S. Sweden: Introduction"
  • To "Phenology and biometry of Dunlin Calidris alpina migrating by way of the Sound area, S. Sweden"
  • To "Migrating Dunlin Calidris alpina in the Baltic area: the moult issue"
  • To "Risk-prone or risk-averse? Dunlin Calidris alpina migrating with and without moult-gaps in the Baltic area"
  • To "Wintering and spring staging Dunlin Calidris alpina in the south Baltic area"
  • To "Migratory progress of juvenile and adult Dunlin Calidris alpina from two perspectives: the Baltic and the Waddensea"
  • To "Bill-length distributions in Dunlin Calidris alpina "
  • To the bill account
  • To the Meissner scale
  • To Dunlin references A - J
  • To Dunlin references K - Z
  • To wader literature list A - L
  • To the Dunlin literature list M - Z
  • Back to start page

    First published 24.7.06, link added 30.1.07, last text change 11.1.14, all links will be checked and corrected in February 2014.