wintering purple sandpipers

11.23.22 ~ Eastern Point

After three weeks of not walking so I could concentrate efforts on my project, we decided to take a little break on the day before Thanksgiving. In order to avoid holiday traffic we took a peaceful morning meander close to home, down at the beach. Little did I realize we would encounter a new life bird! I guessed it was a sandpiper but couldn’t figure out which kind… The good folks at the What’s This Bird? group helped me out.

purple sandpiper, #75

There were about eight of them and the sun was behind them, of course, so the pictures aren’t that great. I disobeyed the “keep off the rocks” signs to get a little closer. (That was a first for me!)

Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima: Uncommon to fairly common (May) coastal migrant, and winter visitor to rocky shores, breakwaters, and jetties.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

A pot-bellied shorebird with a long, drooping bill, the Purple Sandpiper is a hardy species that specializes on rocky, wave-battered coastlines. These subdued, gray-and-white sandpipers nimbly explore seaweed-covered rocks as they search for mussels, crustaceans, and flies, flashing bright orange on the legs and bill. The common name refers to a seldom-seen purple sheen on some of the wing feathers. Purple Sandpipers breed on arctic tundra; they spend winters on North Atlantic shores, farther north than any other shorebird.
~ All About Birds webpage

clam shell with polka dots?
a gull stretching its left wing and left foot
gull footprints through the garnet sand
the long winter shadow of an oak leaf
cormorant silhouettes and the lighthouse
sand fences ready for winter

It was a wonderful break, and then we had a good Thanksgiving, and now, back to work on my project!

43 thoughts on “wintering purple sandpipers”

  1. I love all of the photos, and as always , your way of seeing and discovering the beauty-details. It takes an artist’s eye to spot the shadow of the fence and the polka dotted shell nesting in the sand.
    I have often thought that you might be able to sell photos for postcards. I would have bought them for sure

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Leelah. What an interesting idea about the postcards. People don’t seem to send them like they used to when I was younger. I do love collecting them but I never thought of making my own! I have a lot of artists in my family but I never thought of myself as one, even though I appreciate art and think in pictures…

  2. Congratulations on the Purple Sandpipers sighting AND photos, Barbara! 🤗💃😊 Nice selection of other captures, love that sand fence and shadow shot!! Your ‘break’ was wonderful! (and I am jealous with your PSandpipers 😉 )

    1. Thank you, Donna! I was wondering if you might have had any purple sandpipers down in your area. I almost passed them by, they were so much in shadow, and not realizing what they were. But I’m so glad I decided to climb over the wet rocks and get a little closer! 😊

  3. I don’t guess I’ve ever seen one of these birds either, so thank you for introducing me to them. I’m especially eager to hear about your project, Barbara — I don’t believe I could go three weeks without walking, ha!

    1. I had never heard of purple sandpipers before and was so surprised when the group identified them for me. It’s been very difficult for me sacrificing our walks for this project but something had to give. As I’ve been working I’ve been composing in my head various ways to describe what I’ve been doing…

  4. Smart to talk a break from your project. Yay to add a new bird to your list! I enjoy all your photos, but the footprints in the sand tickles me the most!

    1. The new bird felt like a reward for sticking to it and working so hard. Gotta love those gulls — even their footprints are full of personality. 😊 I hope you’re feeling better, TD.

    1. I had never heard of them either, although they are in my field guides. Now, if only a snowy owl from the Arctic tundra would show up for me. 😉

        1. That’s so exciting! Lucky guy! Our shoreline has had the most sightings in Connecticut, blending in with the sand or hiding in tall grasses…

  5. The sandpipers are so interesting to watch. You got some esquid photos of these cust birds. Your pictures are all lovely – thanks for sharing the beach – I wish I was able to visit the beach more often than every few years.

    1. Thank you, Peggy! I do feel very grateful that we live only a mile and a half away from the beach. It’s always there to restore my spirits and help with healing. The sandpipers were very busy looking for food on those rocks, giving me lots to contemplate about food and life.

  6. Thanks for the introduction to this little sandpiper. Now I am wondering what project you’ve been working on, what has your heart stirred up these days.

    1. You’re welcome, Kathy. They were so petite and so busy. The project isn’t that exciting, but something tedious I’ve been putting off for years. I will try to find a positive way to spin the long story in a future post. 😉

  7. Glad to see you were out and about and taking a much-needed break from your project Barbara. A nice beach stroll and the shell with the polka dots was different. I liked how its dots were so precisely lined up. Congrats on finding a new bird and learning the name of it from those kind folks at What’s This Bird. I like the shadows on the beach from the snow fence. Those Cormorants are so easy to spot, even at a distance with their hooked beats – none of them were air-drying their wings that day.

    1. Those dots were pretty mysterious. They looked like holes in the shell but when Tim picked it up it turns out the dots were bumps on the shell. Maybe someday I’ll try to do some research but for now I’m trying to keep my nose to the grindstone. Nope, no wing drying on that day. I don’t think those cormorants moved the whole time we were there. What a contrast to those busy little purple sandpipers. I do love shadows this time of year, they’re so long and, on sunny days, so pronounced.

      1. It looked different – hope you find out down the road Barbara. Yes, that leaf with the shadow …. Those purple sandpipers made up for the cormorants. Hope you finish up your project to enjoy some down time.

          1. That’s great Barbara – a real sense of accomplishment. I wish I was that ambitious. A week ago, a windstorm knocked a power line down on the fence between my backyard neighbor and me. The line went to his garage roof and it caught on fire. This was 25 feet from my house. The house took five days before it didn’t smell as smoky (the Smells Be Gone helped too). The right-hand corner of my yard was burned, bushes too. Luckily the house was not damaged. I was outside from 11:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. before the fireman said the neighbor next door and I could go inside again. I lost power for 13 hours and my instant-on generator had a “fail” and shut itself off (nothing to do with the fire). I was going to spend some cleaning the house as it was to be 45-50 mph winds a good part of Saturday. So much for that.

          2. OMG, Linda, that’s so scary having a fire so close to your house! That’s an awful long time to be stranded outside in the cold, too. You must have been in terrible shock and suspense, waiting to see if the flames would spread to your house. When Tim was a young teen his family’s house burned down to the ground and it was a trauma the family is still coming to terms with. You have my sympathy having to deal with that awful smell and the rest of the clean up and recovery. Will you replace the bushes or try something new in the spot that burned?

          3. I am doing better now Barbara, but I could not get the picture of the flames and the high winds blowing the flames and sparks around and fearing my house would go up in flames out of my mind. Plus the fear that the generator had malfunctioned and I thought the booms were a natural gas explosion. We have so many of those here where people and their houses literally explode. I contacted the fire department before I purchased it to ensure they were perfectly safe as to natural gas explosions … I was so cautious. The loud noises terrified me while getting dressed and out of the house. It was a long time to be outside.

            How horrible for Tim to endure that – watching the house burn down to the ground. I can see being traumatized by that your entire life.

            I have always been terrified of fire. Not so long ago I had two people on either side of me – both liked to drink and stare at the fire pit while drinking late at night. One was an alcoholic and the other was a double amputee due to diabetes and has since died of a heart attack. He did not navigate around the yard too well and there is a high vinyl fence on my side (why my side I don’t know). I was worried he’d fall and the fire would go to the vinyl fence – our houses are quite close. He got into the habit of building a fire while his sister (who still lives there) was at work. I would smell it when I came home from walking. I still worry about the other side, though since he had long Covid and a heart attack, he does not sit outside like he used to.

            I am not sure yet what to do about the bushes which were large and all planted in 1985. They were assorted types of bushes and my clematis was back there on a trellis. The lilac tree is very old. I also have the shed that blew over and cement blocks remain and I will need to have the trees cut down – they just hacked them up and left the limbs there. I’d like to either get grass or just get fast-growing bushes like Arborvitae so I don’t have to see behind me now that the garage is gone. I’ve done a lot of thinking this past week … what could have been and I am grateful nothing happened.

          4. I have always been terrified of fire, too. Even more so the older I get. It’s so unpredictable. I imagine it will take quite a while for those images, smells and sounds to leave your mind — give yourself plenty of time to process this traumatizing night. Thank goodness it wasn’t worse but it’s all still very unsettling for you.

            Actually Tim and his brother were out-of-state, visiting their grandparents, when their house burned down. His stepfather was out shopping with two of his half brothers and his mother was at home with his other two half brothers, the youngest ones. He still talks about how shocking it was when his grandparents told him what happened and then when he got home and saw how little was left. He still talks about a metal spiral staircase, damaged but still standing in the middle of the charred wood and ashes.

            I don’t blame you for being concerned about the neighbors and the fire dangers they might cause. Living in a townhouse with a shared wall (we live in an end unit) I always hope that the neighbors are careful with their smoking, grilling on the back deck, etc…

            Years ago, during Christmas vacation, a neighbor was out walking their dog and saw smoke coming out of the security light on the corner of our unit. They knocked on our door and we called 911. The fire trucks came. It was a smoldering electrical fire in the wall probably caused by poor installation of the security light. We never had to leave the house although a fire fighter came inside and up the stairs to inspect the wall from the inside. I remember how huge he seemed with all his gear on and the equipment he was carrying. I shudder to think how bad the fire might have gotten if the neighbor hadn’t noticed that smoke!

            Funny you should mention arborvitaes. That’s what we have behind our unit and I love having the green screen between us and the parking lot and pool. Tim doesn’t like them because he says he can’t see anything and I keep saying but that’s the whole point! It’s fun to watch the birds come and go in their branches. They are great shelter for the birds during storms.

          5. The thought of fire and its destruction terrifies me too and I keep dwelling on it. My mom said when she was a kid, one of her classmates at school died in a fire along with all her siblings. The father was watching the kids, fell asleep with a cigarette and the house burned down. My mom said the mother returned home from work to see the fire engines, firemen battling the blaze and she started to scream and tried to run inside. My mom said the entire family but her perished and she never recovered from it and spent the rest of her days in an insane asylum, never spoke, just stared into space.

            I remember seeing the scruffy Blue Jay in the bushes after your big snow storm or the remnants of a hurricane. I have thought of those arborvitae to replace where the shed blew over, but the patio blocks and trees will need to be removed. Maybe the trees can stay and remain part of the landscape if they’re not too damaged from how they hacked the big branches with a chain saw. I’d like something more natural rather than a fence. When I lost most of my butterfly gardn and some bushes after that Polar Vortex of 2013-2014, I decided I’d wait until I was retired to replant … now with climate change and erratic weather, I’m not sure I should go that route again. Too many worries about Winter weather or heavy storms giving the plants “wet feet” … maybe annuals only but that is costly after a while. I have roses on on side of the yard. Tey are pretty hardy and I thought they were goners and they came back. You’ve convinced me Barbara. I wonder if I can get large-sized arbor-vitae, as high as the chain-link fence to give them a good start?

          6. That’s such a sad story… Some traumas are just too much to recover from. The poor woman…

            Arborvitaes grow very fast, like two feet a year, and are so hardy. We’ve never lost one in a storm and only once did a branch break off during an ice storm. The ones behind our unit are three stories tall now. I used to be able to look out the third story window and look down into the swimming pool. Now I can’t see it — yay! They also muffle some of the sounds coming from there in the summer.

          7. Yes, a very sad story Barbara. Fire is so quick and devastating.

            That is good to know about the arborvitaes – I had no idea they grew THAT fast. I like the idea of the privacy, plus you still get a touch of nature and the hardiness appeals to me as well. My neighbor on the one side with her white vinyl fence (on my side only which I never understood) but it just looks too sterile in the yard. My yard is very small as it is, now smaller due to the generator (they have not called about this part yet – grrr). I think we are not going to have issues with this storm moving across the U.S. right now, but you never know how active it will get later in the week.

          8. You can always ask the people at a local nursery which kind of arborvitae or other tree would work best for your situation. I’d be wanting to disguise a stark white fence, too. Looks like that storm will bring us mostly rain and might finish off with a little snow when the cold air rushes in behind it. Friday will not be a good walking day.

          9. That’s a good idea Barbara. We used to have many nurseries around here and most of them closed up shop when big box stores came in and had nurseries, but those big box stores’ bushes and flowers look half dead a lot of the time. That is a good idea and I will go in the Spring to the one remaining nursery and see what they can tell me. I don’t like that high white fence at all and her contractors (a subcontractor of Lowe’s) ripped down 25 feet of my chain link fence to put up her fence. The contractors got a permit from the City and the City ignored the fact that my original signature was not on the document – they were supposed to ask if I was fine with them pulling down the chain-link fence and I was not. My neighbor would not give me any info about the job and I paid my handyman to put up the 25 feet of chain link fence because if she moved out and new people moved in and tore down a fence on my side only (she had an existing fence at the back from years before, just the back as they had Rottweilers and she had two small dogs), I’d be out of luck. I was mad – I have the oddest contractor issues.

          10. Sometimes I think I regret getting a condo because of problems with the neighbors but then I see that not sharing walls doesn’t solve all potential problems. Sharing fences seems to be just as much trouble! That’s a thorny situation you’ve got there and you do seem to have more than your share of contractor issues!

            We discovered a new nursery this year, although it’s been around for a while. The one we used to go to wasn’t a big box store but it was getting way too expensive and commercialized. We got a nice pot of petunias, less expensive and much healthier for our balcony this summer. And a good pumpkin with great gourds and a pot of mums for the fall. And we wound up getting out holiday tree there, too. Already cut and imported from Canada. (We didn’t want to fight the crowds at the tree farm this year.) They explained to us that it was hardened so when I came home and looked it up and learned all about the benefits of having a hardened tree. It’s a Fraser fir and still smells wonderful and isn’t losing needles the way our locally cut, unhardened trees do. It’s the best tree we’ve ever had. Can’t wait to see what this nursery has in store for us this spring. 🙂

          11. Yes, that was a bad situation with that fence and then a year before or after, I don’t recall now, she got new gutters and she has no basement or driveway and her house sits on a slab, so it is quite low down – you could just step into her windows and she leaves them open while away. I’m too paranoid I guess. But anyway, I had a split-rail fence on that side of the house which was on the side of my front garden. The contractor whacked it (likely with a new gutter or drain spout) and it fell down. Granted, my father put it up in the 70s, but it was not rotting or anything, but not nailed together as the wood rails fit into the slots. I went out to walk the next day and the fence was in a heap – no apologies, no knock at the door. I went over to her house and left a note to call me or e-mail me and she said “not my fault – take it up with them” and would not give me the name of who put the gutters on. I did hear them as I work in the kitchen (laptop is on the kitchen table) and looked outside and saw guys carrying gutters, but didn’t notice the truck. She was no help at all and I needed a whole new fence as there was damage. So had the handyman do it, but it was “new wood” not weathered and did not look as nice – it is just starting to weather now.

            I didn’t know that about the hardened tree. We had a real tree when I was young, then went to an aluminum tree (didn’t care for that) then artificial. We had two nice nurseries and I got all my plants/annuals/shrubs there for years but both owners retired and their kids did not want to take over in each case and no other buyer, so it shut down and neither has been taken over by new owners. You have a lucky find with this nursery.

          12. It’s hard to imagine why your neighbor would act that way unless she doesn’t want to alienate her gutter contractors by turning them in to you. That is such a frustrating situation to be in with a next door neighbor.

            The nursery had a wreath-making workshop and they posted some pictures of the people who went and the holiday wreaths they made. Maybe next year I’ll give it a try. I tried to sign up for a workshop to make ornaments out of beads at the little city library this year and was put on a waiting list. 🙁

          13. I saw that you had posted about that on Facebook and it looked fun. That sounds like fun making your own wreath. I saw something, maybe on Wild Birds Unlimited about making an outdoor wreath to appeal to birds, probably putting food in it, which would not be a good idea if they tore apart the wreath to get to it. I have to get a new wreath next year … I looked for one with red berries but could not find one. I have an autumn wreath with orange winterberries, but have not found a Christmas wreath with red winterberries. I like the look.

          14. We have a red winterberry wreath we’ve been using on the front door in the winter for years — I love it. They seem to be selling some on the Target website. I like your idea of orange winterberries for autumn. I will have to try to find one. The nursery we went to is offering all their wreaths, swags and kissing balls for free if we bring in a non-perishable food donation. Then they’re closing for the winter until March 1st.

          15. How nice of your nursery to do that gesture.
            Very worthwhile idea. The food banks are always low on pantry items this time of year.
            I saw on Twitter that Walmart is giving away Christmas trees today, likely because they figure people may heed advice and stay home out of the elements on Friday and Saturday and they’ll be left with them. I got my orange winterberry wreath one of the nice nurseries that closed. I miss them as they had nice wreaths and holiday decor. My wreath has the bow and ribbon in French wired ribbon and is in burnt orange/gold/brown tones to match the winterberries. I have a small house, so have to keep the wreath in proportion. I once brought home a sunflower wreath from this store and it overwhelmed the front door – it didn’t look that big in the store! They didn’t take returns, so I kept it thinking maybe I’d use it in the house somewhere.

  8. Hello Barbara. I’ve not commented here for a long time. I love your purple sandpipers. Are they really purple? My monitor doesn’t show colour the way it should.

    I hope you’re well. I do still read your posts occasionally, but nowhere near as often as I’d like.

    1. Hi Val, it was so nice to find your lovely comment here! I read your “mostly absent” post and was happy to hear you sounding safe and well. I didn’t see any purple on these plain little sandpipers but according to the All About Birds webpage there is “a seldom-seen purple sheen on some of the wing feathers.” There were other identifying features the bird group used to distinguish them from the kinds of sandpipers we have around here in the summer.

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