While I was planning to write about a few great shorebirds this week, I did not expect to have us find one during our third shorebird identification seminar at the Coastal Center at Milford Point last night. I'll write more about this seminar in an upcoming post, but those on hand were treated to a bunch of sights including Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, and American Oystercatcher. Most of the more common shorebirds numbered only in the tens, and a hungry juvenile Peregrine Falcon, while providing awesome looks, did not help the shorebird situation.
However, this Western Sandpiper was located in a small group, poking around a bit for a snack and then pulling in its massive bill for a little nap. It is a juvenile bird that really fits the expected appearance perfectly. Patrick Comins was able to carefully approach the birds yet stay at a far enough distance using the zoom of his camera to snap off a bunch of cool photos. The shots below show the Western Sandpiper features well.
See the huge bill that is even longer than the head of the bird? It also droops just a bit towards the end. You can see how much the bill stands out especially in comparison to the Semipalmated Sandpipers that surrounded it. You can also clearly see the bright rufous coloration on the scapulars as well as the much more gray wing coverts as opposed to the darker gray and black of a Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Western Sandpipers are rare here in Connecticut mostly because of their name as they are found much more commonly on the western and central coasts of the country. However, they can be found regularly wintering from the Mid-Atlantic coast southward, so we are really one of the only areas in the continental United States where they are not often seen. You may be able to pick one out in a given fall from among the thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers that migrate through our state, and if you do you should be very happy with that! Thanks to everyone who attended and got to enjoy this stupendous bird, and more will be posted soon about the fantastic seminar.
Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.