A western wind! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #64

To see birds of the zephyr is a tall order around these parts. Western Kingbird, Western Sandpiper, maybe even a Yellow-headed Blackbird could come my way during fall migration. All three had been seen ,even just last year, but I had missed the trifecta. I was determined to not miss out again! Scanning shorebirds at various locations I tried to make out a Western Sandpiper. I looked a lot on my recent southern trip too. They are a small shorebird of the ‘peep’ variety. Around here ‘peep’ typically means Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpipers.Perhaps you can throw in Piping and Semipalmated Plovers into that group as well, I find their identifying marks a bit more obvious though. Oh..amd Sanderlings and Dunlins….


When looking for a Least Sandpiper the identifying point is the light yellow legs which easily separate them from the dark black legged look of the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The latter gets its name from having “semi-palms” meaning there is some partial webbing between the toes to help this bird work the mud easier. So I needed to look for black legs, a longer bill then most peeps, and some red highlights on the feathers..easy..right?? This bird below is not in the least a Western Sandpiper, it’s a Least Sandpiper. So much for the flash of red helping me find one! Even with a little mud on the legs you can see these are light colored legs,also the beak is too short. It’s all wrong for a Western Sandpiper. Obviously!! 🙂


Least Sandpiper


My search continues and I find myself looking at pond that is known to have good stuff but has sent me home with nothing but outfits and shoes to throw in the garbage more then once, soaked with mud and all kinds of good stuff like strange pink and purple pond bacteria. I see some beautiful red colored Least Sandpipers, but I have zero luck on my target species.


Least Sandpiper


I strike out, but return the next day and strike gold! Hiding behind a Canada Goose I see a bird that gets my hopes up! Could it be a Western Sandpiper!??


Western Sandpiper

While there are millions of Western Sandpipers that migrate on the west coast of the U.S. there is a smaller wintering number in the east. While it’s somewhat rare in the north east Atlantic, we get a few, if you look closely!! You have to scan through dozens, if not hundreds of ‘peeps’ at a time to even have a chance!

Of course I managed to cut off part of the bird in my excitement while taking the photo. But not to worry, I got some other photo’s and as a added bonus another birder came along and not only verified my I’D so I could be totally sure but pointed out a few more that were close by too!! Score!!


The quest for the Western Sandpiper is over!

Western Sandpiper


So awesome!!! Among the Least,Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers there was also some White-rumped Sandpipers and a Marbled Godwit too! Oh! And even a very back-lit Stilt Sandpiper!


White-rumped Sandpiper – I learned from a friend to look for the orange at the base of the bill to help I’D the White-rumped!



Marbled rye..I mean Godwit…


Stilt Sandpiper




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