Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baird's & Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Sterling Peat

Baird's Sandpiper

I would be at my computer at work this afternoon when Alan would send me an email letting me know that Ian and Jess sent out a 411 on both a Baird's Sandpiper and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Alan was on his way to see if he could get them and all I could do at that point was pray to the bird Gods that both would decide to stick around so I can try and see them for myself when I got out of work.

I would finally make my way to Sterling Peat and realize there were no cars around and it suddenly hit me that I was on my own with just my bins and camera and would have to try and ID these birds on my own. Now normally I don't mind that challenge as it's a great way to sharpen your individual birding skills, but shorebirds are on the list of the most intimidating birds for me to identify (fall warblers are number one). I would make my way through the hardened mud banks as beads of sweat would start to appear and I was left wondering if the perspiration was due to the very hot temps or if I was sweating bullets because I knew what was ahead of me, but I the Curious Birder was up for the challenge!!!Anyhow, after what seemed like forever of me scanning the shorebirds for either sign of the Baird's or Buff-breasted, I would finally spot a bird of interest so made my way a little closer and the first thing I would notice would be the color of the bill as well as the length of the tail and black legs. The first picture above will give you an idea of how I first saw the bird and you can see those nice dark legs. The thing that would throw me off though would be the size of the bird as I was expecting it to be a little bigger and was hoping I wasn't confusing it w/ the least despite the fact it didn't have a rusty looking crown (at least to me). I would soon be saved as a Least would decide to meet up with the Baird's, long enough for me to make a size comparison with my bins before it decided to fly off again.
Another shot, not the best but it really shows off the length of the tail. Funny in that I started paging through photos of this bird and the least and I had never really noticed how short the tail of the Least's were until I studied it to this picture. Interesting how you can learn things about other birds by looking at other birds. ;-)
I would decide to sit on some grass in another area and search for the Buff-breasted and took out my book "The Shorebird Guide" and was paging through the Buff-breasted section when suddenly I could sense the presence of another being so I looked up and would see this Spotted Sandpiper giving me a "once over" to gauge the threat level of it being so close to me.
Coming in a little closer and going for the kill.
Score! HA! I watched this bird for a good 5 minutes and almost forgotten what I had gone to Sterling Peat for in the 1st place which was to not only get the Baird's but the Buff-breasted too so I started scanning again. Finally I would spot a bird of interest and try and get a good look at it w/ my bins but the sun made it hard. I would inch up a little closer and get a pretty good look at it so would whip out the camera for a record shot.
I would manage the one photo above and then suddenly a gang of American Crows same flying by Cawing away as if in alarm and it would cause a chain reaction of sorts and the Great Egrets would flee, followed by the very vocal Killdeer and scores of other shorebirds. I would see the shorebirds do a large loop and then go by way of the street where we park our cars. I would sit down again and look at my lousy photo compared to the guide and occasionally glance to see if it would come back again and except for about 4 Killdeer and one Greater Yellowlegs, the place suddenly turned very quiet.
Of course, the Great Egrets decided to stick around though as well as one lone Great-blue Heron. I was very happy to get all 6 of them in one shot.

Take care all.


Hilke Breder said...

Interesting post, Kim, and nice shots of the Baird's and the Spotted Sandpiper!

Larry said...

Some really nice shorebirds.


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