[Tweeters] Shorebirds at Midway and Bottle Beach - Not a RED NECKED STINT Turns into a SANDERLING

Blair Bernson blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com
Fri Jul 18 07:20:08 PDT 2014


I headed off to the Coast yesterday hoping to head
further south and look for the Brown Thrasher that
had been reported. When I spoke to the person who
had seen it and learned it was from 9 days earlier
and had not been seen again, the choice then
became to go to the Westport area or to Ocean
Shores. I chose the former and while, despite a
momentary adrenaline rush to the contrary, there
were no real specialties, the birds were super and
it was a great day.

My first stop was driving the beach along Midway
and Grayland hoping to find a Snowy Plover as I
had not been able to get a photo of one earlier.
Weather was PERFECT with great light and a
soothing ocean breeze that was great relief from
the heat of Puget Sound the past few days. I
quickly came upon a mixed group of shorebirds.
First highlight was a trio of RUDDY TURNSTONES in
their breeding plumage splendor. Other birds in
the flock were numerous WESTERN SANDPIPERS, some
LEAST SANDPIPERS, and bright SEMIPALMATED
PLOVERS. I found several similar groups (less the
RUDDIES). A bit later I found a mix of birds that
included at least one that got my heart racing.
One of the sandpipers had a fairly bright "reddish
brown" head and neck with white undersides and
some spots below the neck. Just under a year ago,
I had seen the RED NECKED STINT at Bottle Beach
and this bird had some similarities. Except it
seemed somewhat larger (not smaller) than the
WESTERNS and while the bill was different - it too
was not smaller. And wing length was also not
right. I relaxed and for the moment figured it
was a WESTERN in somewhat different full breeding
plumage and determined to research it when I got home.

I continued my drive and found more of the same in
different groups - but no SNOWY although one group
had a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER. One interesting
find was a group of gulls and TURKEY VULTURES
picking at the remains of what I later found out
was one of two HUMPED BACKED WHALES that been
ashore for almost two months. I ran into Cindy
Sundstrom (spelling?) who I had seen there two
years earlier. She monitors the area for DFW and
bands the SNOWIES among other duties. She has a
wealth of knowledge and experience and it was a
great talk. When I had seen her there in 2012, we
had been casually watching a group of shorebirds
on the beach as we talked. One was "different"
but I did not do a good job of really honing in on
details. Something spooked the flock and our
"different" bird had a white rump that was clearly
if only briefly visible (to both of us). I
chalked it up as a WHITE RUMPED SANDPIPER which
was rejected by the Bird Committee (wish I had
paid more and better attention) but we both had
the white rump and I am almost certain it was not
a CURLEW SANDPIPER so at least for my list I still
go the former.

As we were talking Cindy nonchalantly pointed over
my shoulder on the hard pack behind me and said
"there's your SNOWY PLOVER". Sure enough it was
there on the beach and I excused myself to get a
photo. Cindy knows every bird and this one is
"Gimpy" because its band has slipped down over its
foot and causes it to limp around a bit. SHe said
however that it has in no way curtailed his
activities and he is a good breeder - maybe the
ladies feel sorry for him.

Later I went to Tokeland but as it was still low
tide, almost nothing there except for a single
WHIMBREL and 72 (I counted each one) GREAT BLUE
HERONS. After a stop in Westport and driving
miscellaneous areas I went to Bottle Beach hoping
for - well anything. High tide was scheduled at
5:50 PM and I hit the beach at 2:20 PM. Lots of
sand and mud but no birds (TV, RED TAIL and
HARRIER over the field). I have followed the
general rule that the time to get to Bottle Beach
is 3 hours before high tide. At exactly 2:50 the
first flock of birds arrived - far out on the
mud. It was a mixed flock of SHORT BILLED
DOWITCHERS and BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS. For the next
90 minutes more and more birds flew in. Mostly
the same as the first but also included were a few
LEAST SANDPIPERS, many more WESTERNS, some
SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, a few DUNLIN (in almost full
breeding plumage), and again three RUDDY
TURNSTONES. The latter stayed together exactly as
they had at Midway Beach earlier and I wondered if
they could be the same birds.

At the peak of the show, I would estimate that
there were perhaps 1000 SHORT BILLED DOWITCHERS
and 150 BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS and no more than 40
WESTERNS. At almost exactly 90 minutes later
almost all of the birds flew off to ... ???

Back to the Red Necked NOT STINT: I looked on
line and could find no pictures of a WESTERN
SANDPIPER in breeding plumage that came even close
to my bird. REally did look more like a RED
NECKED STINT but there were those doggone size and
bill issues. Steve Pink came to my rescue - he
correctly identified it as a breeding plumage
SANDERLING. I do not recall seeing this plumage
here and it was simply not even on my radar
screen. Going back over other pictures I think
there were at least a few.

Fall migration is truly fun - I wonder what will
come next (and what I may have missed at Ocean
Shores).

Some pictures, including the SANDERLING are at -
https://picasaweb.google.com/103072475474183849815/MidwayBeachJuly17?authkey=Gv1sRgCMOTor6NxZjJSQ#

--
Blair Bernson
Edmonds




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