migrating sandpipers

8.16.20 ~ two kinds of sandpipers, Eastern Point

On the weekend we finally got a break from the heat and humidity and when we went down to the beach early Sunday morning I was very surprised to see some very tiny shorebirds on the rocks. After careful investigation I believe they are two different kinds of sandpipers because of some small differences in size and beak shape. The smaller one in front with the yellow legs and the slightly curved bill is a least sandpiper. The slightly larger one in back with the black legs (legs seen in following pictures) and a stouter bill is a semipalmated sandpiper.

They were a little difficult to capture with my camera, but in the picture above you can see the semipalmated’s (lower left) black legs. The least sandpiper (upper right) is only slightly larger than a sparrow.

least sandpiper

Least Sandpipers breed in tundra and boreal forests across the extreme northern regions of North America. They nest in coastal wetlands, bogs, sedge meadows, and tussock heaths. At the southern reaches of their breeding range, in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, they also nest in sand dunes. During migration they stop on coastal mudflats, rocky shorelines, and inland habitats including wet meadows, flooded fields, and muddy edges of lakes, ponds, and ditches. They winter from the southern United States through the northern half of South America in lagoons, mangrove forests, wet ditches, swamps, wet fields, mudflats, saltmarshes, tidal sloughs, and the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
~ All About Birds webpage

My guess is that this flock is migrating south and stopped on our “rocky shoreline.” The “All About Birds” webpage also says they flock with other shorebirds during fall migration, including with the semipalmated sandpipers.

semipalmated sandpiper

The Semipalmated Sandpiper has three North American breeding populations: western (Alaska), central (western Canadian Arctic), and eastern (eastern Canadian Arctic). A 2012 study estimated a total population of 2.26 million breeding birds, with 1.45 million in the western population, and 810,000 in the central and eastern populations. Population trends have fluctuated over the last several decades. Overall, it appears that the Alaskan and central populations are currently stable, with possible increases in some areas, and the eastern population is declining. Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.
~ All About Birds webpage

There were fewer semipalmated sandpipers in the flock than the least sandpipers, which makes sense if they are declining. It seems this little guy flew here from the eastern Canadian Arctic. Good luck on the rest of your journey, little one!

As I was oohing and aahing over the sandpipers a herring gull came over, wondering why I wasn’t taking his picture…

herring gull

As we continued our walk we tried to make a Marco Polo video message of ourselves for Katherine and Finn. We love it when they send us one. πŸ™‚ I hope it came out all right. We want them to remember the beach. It was just over a year ago that they were here!

There was an unusually large group of cormorants gathered on the breakwater. Just a tad closer to me than normal, but not quite close enough to get the “perfect” picture I dream about.

pair of double-crested cormorants

I’m pretty sure the ducks below are mallards.

mallard looking out to sea

On the way home we saw a large flock of Canada geese resting and preening on logs in Beach Pond, which seems to have a little more water in it from a recent rainstorm. Not sure where the logs came from.

Canada geese in Beach Pond

We drove through the Avery Point campus looking for American oystercatchers that someone spotted a few days ago. Didn’t see any, just a group of crows.

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 20, 1840)

crow walking along a seawall at Avery Point

It was definitely a bird walk!

28 thoughts on “migrating sandpipers”

  1. I like your bird photos. Sandpipers are cute as the bee’s knees. On the other hand I think that gulls are comedians. They make me smile even when they’re just standing there.

    1. Thank you, Ally. I agree, the sandpipers are so very adorable and the gulls are a bunch of characters. Their personalities and antics are fascinating and endlessly entertaining.

  2. You (and Henry David) know how to enjoy a good walk! And these photos are terrific. There’s always something calming about watching birds, be they shorebirds or quacky ducks and geese. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Pam! It amazes me how walking in the same place all summer is always a different experience with a diversity of birds making appearances on any given day. It has been very calming during this pandemic.

    1. We don’t have magpies here, so when my sister lived in Sweden for a year she was quite taken with the magpies she found there, writing home about them frequently. I think they’re pretty and I saw a few when we were visiting our daughter when she was living in Ireland.

    1. Thank you, Julia! It was such a treat to encounter them. This morning I needed a sweater on my walk, but the heat and humidity are supposed to come back this weekend…

  3. I noticed that the geese were banded. I remember when Canada Geese were not so plentiful, and were in fact fairly new in our area. Some showed up at our pond wearing bands and boy, was my mother outraged! πŸ˜€ Your photos of the sandpipers are wonderful. I love them, but have had no success getting photos of them.

    1. Thank you, Melissa! It was tricky trying to keep a steady hand with the telephoto lens but I am glad some of the pictures came out pretty well. Of course the sandpipers didn’t try to pose the way the gulls do. πŸ™‚ Do sandpipers nest in your area?

      I didn’t notice the bands on the geese. Ten years ago I got a picture of a Canada goose with a very uncomfortable-looking one around its neck. I sympathize with your mother’s reaction. I can understand the desire to do research but some of these tracking devices look pretty irritating.

      1. I often think so too.
        I don’t know enough about birds to know exactly which birds come through and which ones nest, but these do resemble some that I’ve watched at IBSP. I think there is a tiny plover that has people all excited…
        Yes, I got a kick out of the seagull. “Ahem, have you forgotten to take a photo of MOI?!”

        1. What/where is IBSP? Is it a nature area where you go to get inspiration for some of the birds in your paintings? It is challenging identifying birds, especially when the tiny differences are hard to spot. I’m wondering if I will get corrected when I add the sandpipers to the Connecticut Bird group on Facebook. It’s taken me a few years to get the kinds of gulls straightened out. πŸ™‚

          1. Oh sorry~Illinois Beach State Park. Yes, it is indeed where I go for inspiration of all kinds. I monitored butterflies there for 20 years, and in the process learned a lot. Still don’t know much about birds, though! πŸ™‚

          2. How interesting! My grandmother was a nature photographer whose main focus was butterflies. My grandfather was a land surveyor and she would go with him out in the field (or woods) and bring home eggs or caterpillars she found and keep them in glass aquariums. She knew the right kind of leaves to feed them. She took pictures of them forming a pupa and then later emerging from the pupa. Every time we visited my sister and I would get a tour of the aquariums in her garden, all lined up against the sheds, and learn the story of each one. If a butterfly was starting to emerge during dinner she would excuse herself from the table to go photograph it. πŸ™‚

            I looked up Illinois Beach State Park – it looks like a great place to commune with nature and be inspired! I’ve never been so far west. So many beautiful places in this world…

  4. Congratulations getting the sandpiper photos especially. I had to look up Marco Polo video. Have never heard of it before! Glad your humidity level has decreased.

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I’m very excited about the sandpipers. πŸ™‚

      We like Marco Polo because we can record a video message to the little ones and they can watch it when they’re receptive. A few hours after we sent this one we got a video back from Katherine who was excited about the gulls she saw on our video (maybe she will be like her grandmother?). Finn, who is only 21 months old, likes to practice saying “hi” on his videos, and showed us his new stuffed bunny, and he waits patiently for his mother to suggest he say good-bye and press the red button, to end the recording. We love watching his little face get closer to the screen as he concentrates on pushing the red button. πŸ™‚

  5. What an interesting bird walk! You saw so many different varieties of birds along the way too. I’m interested in looking up our Australian sandpipers now I’ve seen your photos to compare them. My husband’s parents, who recently went into aged care, used to live in Sandpiper Avenue, and I didn’t realise until recently that a Sandpiper is a bird! I’m assuming we must have them in the area though, considering the street name.
    Thank you for once again taking us along with you on your lovely nature walk. 😊

    1. You’re welcome, Joanne! I’m so happy you enjoyed our little morning wandering. After a quick browse on the web I have come to the conclusion that there are sandpipers found on every continent, except Antarctica. I do hope you get to see one someday. Do you live near the seashore? We have a Sandpiper Lane in a nearby town, and plenty of Sandpiper Motels up and down the east coast. The sandpipers were so adorable, and as expected, they were gone the next day, back on their way down south.

      1. We do live close to the sea. The Pacific Ocean is only about ten minute’s drive from here, so we are likely to have Sandpipers in the area. It seems that they migrate to Australia each year from the Northern Hemisphere! My in-law’s old home in Sandpiper Avenue is situated on a canal, so it’s reasonable to assume the street was named after the bird. I will keep my eyes open for sandpipers from now on. πŸ™‚

        1. I google-mapped Mount Warning and now see how close to the sea you are. πŸ™‚ Aren’t sandpipers amazing little birds to migrate so far? Some of ours go down to South America. I don’t know how they do it. Nature is so full of miracles. It makes me appreciate more what a gift it was to see them for that brief moment in their incredibly long journey. I hope you’ll have your camera if/when you do come across a sandpiper!

    1. Thank you, Eliza. I’m starting to notice the shorebirds more now that we’re sticking so close to home.

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