[Tweeters] Lake Sammamish SP - Semipalmated Sandpiper YES

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Wed Jul 29 08:27:49 PDT 2015

Good morning Tweets,

Thanks to Larry Schwitters' tip about shorebirds at Lake Sammamish State Park, I rushed over there right after dinner last night. I got to the Issaquah Creek mouth at about 7:30 PM. I scanned the outermost part of the creek, in sort of a pool-like area where the north fork of the mouth is currently dammed off by a bar of sediment, but there were no shorebirds in sight. Then, I thought like a shorebird. Where would I be if I were a sandpiper? I looked back upstream, and to my delight I saw two small peeps feeding in the creek!

One was a Least, and the other... A Semipalmated Sandpiper indeed! I watched the Semipalmated for over an hour, during which time it was joined by a (the same bird as seen earlier by Larry?) Long-billed Dowitcher and many Mallards. While the Least Sandpiper did much resting and preening on a gravel bar in the middle of the stream, and the Dowitcher pretty much did its own thing, including bathing and scratching its neck (which the Least Sandpiper indulged in as well), the Semipalmated Sandpiper was active the entire time, feeding over a section of the stream perhaps 25 square feet in area and alternating between hanging with the Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, and poking around for food all by itself. The Semipalm did stretch its wings a few times, and even ejected a bit of excrement at one point (as did the Dowitcher).

The Semipalmated Sandpiper is a subtly beautiful bird, in shades of gray, buffy brown and white. I am still blown away by just how small Calidris sandpipers are. I see so many wonderful pictures taken by people with powerful cameras at close range, that when I actually see peeps in real life, their actual tiny stature still surprises me. They seem to be exceptionally minuscule for the gorgeous complexity of their plumage, let alone the magnitude of their migration! Perhaps their strength and beauty beyond their size is one of the reasons that I adore shorebirds so much.

The shorebirds' feeding area was situated at the beginning of the north fork of the creek mouth "delta". In other words, it's right on the north side of where the creek forks off into two streams shortly before Issaquah enters the lake. The north fork is the one that is a pool, while the south fork flows into the lake. (Just an anecdote: checking Google Maps, it used to be the other way around, with the north fork emptying into the lake. But sediments do shift!) If you are interested in getting to the spot, drive into the park at the main entrance and keep going straight (as opposed to turning left for the first parking lot). This will take you up and to the right, until you reach a large parking area.

You will probably want to park on the eastern (far) edge of the lot as that is where the bridge across the creek is. Once you walk across the bridge, turn left and follow the trail all the way out to the creek mouth. The sandpipers and Dowitcher were feeding in the creek at the beginning of the north fork of the "delta".

Also in the area were three Belted Kingfishers, many Canada Geese, a couple Great Blue Herons, a Common Yellowthroat or two, and even a Hairy Woodpecker calling "peek!" sharply in the forest a few times.

I posted a few (okay, a little more than a few) of my pictures from my glorious time there, and I will likely post a few more. Of course, I welcome any opinions if anyone wants to call this a Western, but it looks to me like a pretty classic Semipalmated Sandpiper, being generally pale and pretty buffy. The bill might appear to be a tiny bit on the longish side, but I think that it's perfectly in range for a Semipalm, and other birders who have seen pictures have agreed with that conclusion!


And if anyone has any tips for aging and sexing this bird, I would love to hear them, too! The slightly longer bill may make this a female, from what I've read.

Thank you, Larry Schwitters, for your rapid posting on Tweeters! I have been wanting to see a Semipalmated Sandpiper for a while now, and I've been dreaming and planning of ways to see one. Thanks for helping to make those dreams a reality! Watching the sandpipers forage in the creek, as the amber-colored sunset played on the still pool and shimmered on the lake, was a memorable experience. A spectacularly gorgeous sight!

For all you Tweeters who have been reading my posts for almost the past year, maybe the ebullient length of this message doesn't surprise you. I always go longer when I chase birds I adore, and I hope that you find my messages entertaining! :)

Good birding as always, and may you all see Semipalmated Sandpipers very soon, Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com

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