Date: 8/26/17 9:35 pm From: <courtney.buechert...> [northbaybirds] <northbaybirds-noreply...> Subject: [NBB] A peep dilemma at Rodeo Lagoon - (Long Post)
I'm pretty sure I'm going to regret posting this but if it's the bird I think it might be, people should look for it.
Okay, here it goes (in story form):
My wife and I were walking our dogs to Rodeo Beach at 11:30 this morning. As we crossed the bridge over the lagoon towards the beach, I heard what I thought was a Pectoral Sandpiper. I looked to my right at the northwestern shore and there was a lone peep. With two dogs and no binoculars, it seemed a bit upright so I thought that it could be the possible Pectoral that I heard. But I noticed with my naked eye that it had a distinct dark cap, a pale face, a long distinct pale eye stripe and a largely pale breast and belly (some wash of color and striping on the sides of the breast but oddly incomplete and clear in the middle - aka, not very Pectoral - maybe Sharp-tailed?).
I got to the west side the bridge, shed the dogs and walked by myself to the dunes above the bird. I was able to walk within 50 feet of the bird, above it and looking with the light pretty much above us. The fog was feathering off and it was beginning to be quite bright out.
Now I had my binoculars out and was staring down at the peep. Two things struck me right away: it had distinctly yellow-green legs but it was too small to be a Pectoral or Sharp-Tailed. So, I assumed that it was a Least Sandpiper (rusty peep with modest bill and yellow legs) or a weird Semipalmated (shortish, tapered bill, pale face, breast and eye stripe but with weird leg color). And that whatever I heard calling was something elsewhere. The next things that struck me was an overall shape that made it look tallish, fattish and short butted. It was static and picking from the shallow water it was standing in until it started walking - and then it looked awkward, clumsy. I watched it for about ten minutes and I decided that it looked like it was walking in flippers - high steps and shorts strides.
That's when thought that it might be a long-toed stint.
I really didn't know what exactly I was supposed to look for ( I have no first hand knowledge of this species). The primaries and tail seemed about the same length. The wing coverts were 2/3 dark in the center and rusty for the 1/3 edges. There seemed to be a line formed by the paler (less rusty) edges of the feathers on the mantle running along the upper scapulars. I noticed it from bridge. The cap effect was really distinct on the sides of the head (versus the lores and the eye stripe) and rear of the head (versus a duller nape), but I didn't see any pale between the bill and the cap. The bill was largely dark, tapering and slightly decurved in the final 1/3. It seemed generally black but a little less black at the base of the lower mandible.
I couldn't think of anything else to look at. And as I started to really think about it, I walked back that I don't know all the fall age and plumage variations of the Least Sandpiper or the chances of a yellow-green legged Semipalmated. And I remember reading a rough exchange where Rich Stallcup was being grilled about a potential Long-toed Stint that he had a Limantour (I think). I do not have Rich's supernatural gifts nor his conviction.
Anyway, I watched it for another five minutes, learned nothing new ( it never flew or called again and I didn't know anything else to look for) and walked away conflicted and confused.
When we completed our dog walk, I checked the muddy peninsula at the southwest edge of the lagoon and saw nothing but a dead gull. And when we re-crossed the bridge the wasn't anything (peep or otherwise) on the northwestern mud and edges.
But I have replayed this in my head all afternoon and evening, I decided that I should at least let people know that there might be something out there worth taking a serious look at.
So, I hope someone finds a peep out there that generally matches this description. And I'd be excited to learn whatever it is. But I know that with one CA record (yeah, I looked when I got home), tons of challenges with identifying this species and my own modest knowledge of peeps, this is a super tough one.
I'll be out there looking early tomorrow for my own sanity but I have my first day at the GGRO hawk watch, so my time is pretty limited.