[Tweeters] Some Notes on Purple Sandpiper and Red Throated Pipit near Victoria, B.C. Yesterday

B B birder4184 at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 13 10:38:19 PST 2017

Steve Pink and I made the trip to Victoria B.C. yesterday to look for some recently reported rare birds there.  These included the second ever western record of a Purple Sandpiper and a Red Throated Pipit.  While there we also looked for Skylarks and a Harris's Sparrow.  We were successful in finding (and photographing) the Purple Sandpiper only.
Purple Sandpiper:  It has been appearing regularly at Kitty Islet near 586-592  Beach Drive, Victoria BC.  Map 48.411406, -123.307312.  A very neat spot - park in the pullout and walk downthe stairs to the rocks.  We had taken the 7:00 a.m. ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and arrived at Kitty Island at about 9:30.  Although it was near low tide, the tide was quite high.  There were a number of shorebirds on the rocks perhaps +/-50 yards off the viewpoint.  The weather was very cold but full sunshine (at our backs) and no wind.  Two local birders were present (two more came later) and the Purple Sandpiper was fairly quickly located at one end of one rock in the water about 4 feet up from the water's edge.  It was readily recognized by size and length and color of bill.  Other birds were numerous Black Bellied Plovers, Surfbirds, Black Turnstones and Black Oystercatchers.  The Purple Sandpiper mostly kept its head tucked into its belly but a few photos showed the key ID marks of bill and feet.   Unfortunately less than ten minutes after first getting the bird, a cormorant flew by and most of the shorebirds flew off - some including the Purple Sandpiper  going to the nearby Trial Island where they remained for another 20 minutes until they left.  Views in flight showed the wing line well. One local who had arrived just after the bird flew and who lives nearby said this has been a common pattern - with the bird usually not returning or returning much later.  SO - if contemplating a trip, the odds are good that the Purple Sandpiper will be in the area BUT you may want to be there when there is a normal or relatively low low tide which will expose the rocks that are closer to your viewing spot affording better views and photo ops.
Red Throated Pipit:  It was last reported on January 9, 2017 and has not been found again despite searches by many good B.C. birders.  It was found at the Martindale Flats area - the same area where Skylarks are sometimes located and also where the Harris's Sparrow is still being fond (although not by us).  We worked this area hard and met up with Jeremy Gatten who was the first to report the Purple Sandpiper and who once previously had heard the Red Throated Pipit here.  He too worked the area hard without success.  I found three American Pipits (there have been many here).  No luck for the target.  The Harris's Sparrow has been located primarily either by the model airplane field or by the pump-house in the middle of the area.  We looked hard in both spots without success although we did find a very large flock of White Crowned Sparrows.  Bottom line - not too encouraging for the Red Throated Pipit.
Skylarks:  This species continues to decline.  It was missed altogether on the Victoria CBC.  All acknowledge that it is easier to find in Spring when more actively singing but it is possible in winter,  We tried three areas:  Martindale Flats per above and then the fields at 8277 Central Saanich Road in Saanichton and then 9601 Canora Road by the airport.  Not a sound...not a glimpse. 
Even with the misses it was a great trip.  Beautiful weather and very nice people.  The ferry crossing is spectacular and we had a beautiful sunrise and sunset and spectacular full moons in the early morning and evening.  The Purple Sandpiper was a life ABA bird for Steve and the first I had seen in 40 years and my first photo.  Thanks to Melissa Hafting for lots of assistance. 

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