Thursday, 5 July 2012

Western Union - southbound sandpipers return

With the first southbound shorebirds now leaving the tundra breeding grounds and passing through the area, I headed out to Panama Flats on Wednesday evening to see what the remaining water may have attracted.

Western sandpipers
An active flock of ‘peeps’ were feeding in the shallows of the southwest quadrant and a quick scan confirmed that the majority were western sandpipers, with a few least sandpipers mixed in.
For non-North Americans reading this, the word ‘peeps’ is the catch-all favoured phrase to describe any of the smaller calidrids
It’s a helpful word, and one that has been gaining ground in UK birding circles in recent years, that helps summarize non-specifically identified stint-like birds.

Greater yellowlegs
Anyhoo, as I checked around the edges of the pool I also noted a trio of tringas – all were greater yellowlegs, although one bird with extremely orange legs had me reminiscing about redshanks for a minute or two… I got my ‘scope out and reassured myself that it was just an atypically orange-legged yellowlegs. You can see the bird (to the left) in the photo here.
Lynette Brown arrived and we walked around the site checking all the likely spots in search of anything else of interest. There were of course the local killdeer and spotted sandpipers, plus a good mixture of swallows including northern rough-winged and cliff swallows. Last August I found a bank swallow here, so it’s always worth checking the feeding mass of hirundines for any sneaky interlopers.
A single drake green-winged teal lurking around on the edge of a vegetated pool was something of a surprise, perhaps an early returning failed breeder?

Least sandpipers
When we arrived back at the SW quadrant, I spent some time ‘scoping through the western sandpipers and was rewarded with the discovery of a lone semipalmated sandpiper. Always great to see, and often good fun to identify!
For those who like numbers, my tally was 52 western sands, 16 least sands, 3 great yellowlegs and 1 semipalmated sandpiper.

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