25 February 2014

Lesser Sand Plovers – Dammam / Al Khobar Wader Roost South

Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus comprises five subspecies: pamirensis, atrifrons and schaeferi (collectively known as the ‘atrifrons group’) traditionally characterised by jet-black forehead in breeding plumage, and mongolus and stegmanni (together forming the ‘mongolus group’) with white on forehead, in which respect they resemble Greater Sand Plover. Even in breeding plumage, subspecific identification of Lesser Sand Plover requires great caution, as wide variation occurs within populations and intermediates are frequent. While atrifrons and pamirensis are separable from the others as a group, within that group variation from typical atrifrons to typical pamirensis is clinal and some specimens from wintering grounds are therefore hard to assign to one or the other. The sub-species of Lesser Sand Plover occurring in the Eastern Province and Arabian Gulf is the subspecies C. m. pamirensis . This subspecies is a larger, paler, short-billed race birds from the Pamirs and neighbouring parts of Wakhan, Lahul, Ladakh and Kashmir, as well as from the western Kun Lun, eastern Alai and Tien Shan in the western part of the range of the ‘atrifrons group’. The photographs below were taken at Damman / Al Khobar wader roost south where well over two hundred birds were seen. Many were using the small pieces of vegetation as wind breaks and although most were in winter plumage a few were starting to gain summer plumage. The lack of full breeding plumage makes the birds difficult to assign to sub-species but they are probably of the ‘altifrons’ group.