Saturday, August 22, 2009
I just thought I'd post a quick note concerning some neat shorebirds I saw today. This morning, while sifting through my email before leaving for a biking expedition to the Santa Ana River, I noticed a post on OrangeCounty Birding by Jim Pike about a Stilt Sandpiper at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Though tempted to jettison my biking trip (I was hoping to find Baird's Sandpiper) to chase the Stilt Sandpiper, I carried through with my original plan and birded the Santa Ana River all morning. I didn't see any Baird's Sandpipers, but I did score two new Bigby birds - Tricolored Blackbird and Cattle Egret.
This afternoon I drove down to San Joaquin to chase the pesky Stilt Sandpiper. Noticing some birders intent on something down in the Stilt Sandpiper pond, I hurried over there and quickly had the bird pointed out to me. Though it had its head underwater most of the time (see photo at the top of the post!), I managed to get a few shots of it without its bill submerged. This species is very scarce in the county; it isn't seen every year. It was a new county bird for me.
After photographing, observing, and taking notes on the Stilt Sandpiper for awhile, I turned my attention to the swarms of other shorebirds in the pond. As expected, many dowitchers (both species), Western Sandpipers, and Wilson's Phalaropes were present. I noticed a slightly different peep in small flock of Westerns in the pond, and upon close scrutiny I identified it as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. It was very similar to the Western Sandpipers, except for its very short, stubby bill and lack of rufous on the upperparts.
Semipalmated Sandpiper is another fairly rare shorebird in Orange County; only two or three show up in the county every fall. It is primarily an eastern bird; I saw them all the time when I lived in Michigan, but this was only the second I've seen in California. This photo, which doesn't show the bill, shows the lack of rufous on the upperparts.
I was very pleased to net two good species of shorebirds in a quick afternoon jaunt to San Joaquin. Unfortunately, both species are lacking from my Bigby list, so I'm thinking of riding down there tomorrow afternoon. Some Baird's Sandpipers showed up at Bolsa Chica, so I'll have to figure out a way to chase those, too.