Date: 6/11/19 4:42 am From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...> Subject: June Western Sandpiper at Centerton
There was an extensive, freshly-drained pond that had a few shorebirds on it yesterday morning at Craig State Fish Hatchery in Centerton. Most (25+) were Killdeer. At least one Spotted Sandpiper remains. Out among the Killdeer were two peeps. I assumed first they were probably Least Sandpipers with mud covering their legs. But then it was obvious they were actually dark legs. We sometimes have White-rumped Sandpipers into June, but these birds didn’t have wing tips that extended past the tip of the tail. So must be Semipalmated Sandpipers, right? That seemed like the most workable hypothesis, except: one was a pretty standard-issue Semipalmated Sandpiper with the right size and bill shape. But the other peep was obviously larger, with slightly different plumage. Slightly larger could equal Western, but it lacked obviously longish bill of a Western. I photographed them standing together on the mudflat. What this calls for is a second opinion. I sent photos last night to Vivek Govind Kumar to see if he could see what I was seeing. Vivek’s opinion: “The larger peep is most likely a Western Sandpiper - front heavy, with a bigger chest, larger head and thicker neck. The shortish bill indicates that this individual is probably a male. A "drooping" bill tip is somewhat visible … Western Sandpipers tend to be a bit larger than Semipalmated Sandpipers, but this slight size difference is not obvious unless the 2 species are seen side by side (which is the case here). This individual appears to be in 1st alternate plumage.”
In past years we have had a few June records for single Westerns, like the one yesterday. Mike Mlodinow saw one at Centerton on June 26, 2000 – it was missing a foot. He saw another June 6 and 9, 2004. “This bird did not seem to be completely in breeding plumage as crown and ear coverts were not red. However, many of the scapulars were those of a breeding adult of this species: the basal 2/3 red and the tip black fringed with red.”
Finally, on the big bird front, two adult Bald Eagles were perched, as usual, in a snag just south of the upper ponds.