An atrifrons Lesser Sand-plover was found by Irad Solnik on July 25th / 26th at Alexander (tiny) estuary; then it went missing for almost a week.Yesterday morning (31/7) it was relocated by Ezra Jasper and Hanan Goldberg on Ma'ayan Tzvi beach, just north of Ma'agan Michael, about 21 km north of the original site. It was not seen yesterday afternoon, but of course I decided to go for it.
When I arrived this morning at first light with a few friends, we were releaved to find it was at the same site as yesterday. We sat down and waited for the sun to rise, while discovering that this bird is amazingly tame - perhaps the best-showing rarity I'd ever seen. It walked right up to us, down to 6 meters, and was feeding continuously on the millions of insects on mud and water surface. It just wouldn't fly away - jeeps, joggers with dogs, bike riders etc. passed right by it and it just walked a couple of steps aside.
The first impression we got of the bird in the field was really small and delicate, just as a Lesser Sand-plover should be. At first it was quarelling with a Kentish Plover and it wasn't much larger; unfortunately too far and dark to get an image of both of them together. After the sun went up, I managed to get some pretty decent shots, showing most important ID features - general structure (delicate and rounded), bill structure (short and rather thick with nail shorter than rest of bill), head and breast pattern (extensive dark mask and broad, even breast band), dull sandy-grey upperparts.
Some words about general structure - I was hoping for a bird with less 'mass' behind the legs (like the recent Scottish / Irish bird), but this rather horizontal structure is shown by quite many atrifrons.
And something about its leg colour. Note how in every image leg colour looks different. At some points it was covered in more greenish mud, that made parts of the legs (especially tarsus) look greenish. But tibia was black, especially close to the body, and scope views from ridiculously close revealed the true black leg colour beneath the mud cover.
In this image the darker primary coverts are visible:
So beautiful in early morning golden light. Some of the wing pattern visible here - didn't get a proper upperwing shot:
And something of the tail pattern here, not too much of a dark subterminal band here - for what it's worth:
Unfortunately the plover favoured a small muddy lagoon that was full with rubbish - very difficult to get a shot without a plastic cup, plastic bag, bottle etc. Depressing to see the beach so Ugly. Apart for the sandplover not too many other birds around - some Turnstones, Armenian Gulls and terns going overhead.
Thank you Mr. Plover for showing so well!
This is the 3rd, 4th or 5th record for Israel: there are two accepted records (1983 and 2003). Then another record from August 2010, probably of mongolicus, resurfaced recently; the famous bird from KM20 saltpans seen during the 2010 Eilat Festival; and this one - all will be circulated by IRDC soon I hope. I am sure there are some more records stored in some lost folders waiting to be dug out. I am sure it is overlooked, and not so mega rare in Israel.
Great to see some good friends this morning; I hope this good-looking bird stayes for the weekend, so everyone else gets the chance to see it. I learned so much about identification of this group in recent days, so I was very happy to see this bird myself.