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A Semipalmated Plover in Iceland

Brynj˙lfur Brynjˇlfsson and Sigmundur ┴sgeirsson did not really expect to find a new bird for Iceland, on an evening tour on the Reykjanes peninsula (SW Iceland) on 7 May 2004, where the target bird was Manx Shearwater which is regular off several seawatching points. When having a quick look at Sandger­i, they soon stopped on a 'ringed plover' type, which was clearly smaller than the surrounding Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula. After looking carefully to the few record shots taken immediately, which showed webs between the toes, the news were released; very probable Semipalmated Plover Ch. semipalmatus. Later in the evening the bird was relocated and the identification confirmed. It could be well observed, down to ca 20 m, until "dark" (after 10 pm). At the time of writing (11 May) the bird is still present in the same area.

It is thought that this bird is in its first summer, because of the immature looking plumage, although litterature states that first-summer birds are distinguished from adults by the very worn primaries (!). Apart from the webs between the toes, the white line coming above the gape is quite obvious, as the thin, yellowish eye-ring and the primaries that seem slightly longer than on most Ringed Plovers (visible on the photo below showing both species together). Note also the small size of the bird compared to the Ringed Plover. The calls were also very different.

This bird is a long-awaited addition to the Iceland list which stands now at 362 species (not counting American Herring Gull as a separate species). This is a very rare vagrant in the Western Palearctic, outside the Azores where it has been recorded regularly in recent years. Other records (as far as I know) include two in Great Britain, one in Ireland, two in Madeira, one in Norway and two in Spain.

- YK 11/05/2004

- click on the photos to enlarge -

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandger­i (SW)
9 May 2004

Note the white line going above the gape, and
thin, yellowish eye-ring.

© DanÝel Bergmann

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandger­i (SW)
9 May 2004

Note the webs between the toes.

© DanÝel Bergmann

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandger­i (SW)
9 May 2004

© DanÝel Bergmann

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandger­i (SW)
7 May 2004

The Semip Plover in front, with a Ringed Plover.

© Brynj˙lfur Brynjˇlfsson

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Sandger­i (SW)
9 May 2004

© DanÝel Bergmann

The team of birders watching the bird shortly after
its discovery, at Sandger­i.

© Brynj˙lfur Brynjˇlfsson

The mudflat at Sandger­i where the plover has
been seen.

© DanÝel Bergmann