Don, as you said yourself, these are less than spectacular photos. Digiscoping without an adapter is so hard to do and too many of my own are far less identifiable than these.
The first thing I was taught when identifying shorebirds 30+ years ago is that you need to age them first, particularly in the fall when there is a mix of adults and juveniles before they can be properly identified. The second photo is more useful as it has enough definition to tell it is juvenile with a rufous in the scapulars. The first photo is too soft.
The quality of the photos could be responsible for making the bill look odd but the length, while long, is not out of range for female Westerns who have longer bills than males. And as they turn their heads the bills do tend to look thicker.
Dunlin can be eliminated for multiple reasons. The subspecies of Dunlin that breed in North America are late migrants. The young of the year molt on the breeding grounds into their winter plumage before migrating south. It is rare to see a juvenile Dunlin down here that still retains some of its first coat of feathers. It is also fairly early for adult Dunlins to be migrating south and if so they are most likely still in their breeding plumage unless their hormones were such that they never molted into their fancy plumage.
On your checklist you also include a recording of what you felt was a Short-billed Dowitcher. It doesn’t sound like one to Dave or myself and sounds more like a muffled Greater Yellowlegs. A SBDO has a more distinct but mellow tu-tu-tu that is higher pitched.
> On Aug 13, 2019, at 9:47 PM, Craig Miller <gismiller...> wrote:
> Hi Don,
> I don't know if you have gotten any personal replies yet, but here is my impression. The bill is not typical for Western Sandpiper. The shape and plumage pattern of the bird is consistent with non-breeding Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper. The best way to tell the difference between Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper in this plumage is the bill shape. The bill on Curlew Sandpipers are slender at the tip. The bill in your bird(s) appears to be nearly uniformly thick all the way to the tip. It is always a little risky to call a bird without a size comparison, but from what I can tell, it is a Dunlin.
> I don't see the rufous scapulars that Bob Archer mentioned.
> Craig Miller
> On Mon, Aug 12, 2019 at 1:36 PM J D REIMERBERG, J REIMER-BERG <donjenrb...> <mailto:<donjenrb...>> wrote:
> I slogged into Mofitti Marsh at Basket Slough this morning. I found a nice selection of sandpipers when I got there, even though I had seen only 2 of each: Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Coyotes from Morgan Lake. Once I was down to the marsh I saw Greater Yellowlegs along with a Lesser and several Dowitchers. Swimming near them was a Red-Necked Phalarope. In the mud with a few Lesser Yellowlegs was a Semipalmated Plover.
> When I settled down to study the peeps. I quickly noticed that there were a couple of them wading further out in the water from the rest. I thought maybe they were Curlew Sandpipers. They seemed larger to me, but they were further out in the water than the others, so I wasn't sure. My reaction through the scope was that they were the longest billed Westerns that I remembered seeing. I took as many pictures as I could, but my cell phone through the scope technique isn't so great in the bright sunlight. I also picked out a Semipalmated sandpiper amongst the other peeps.
> Could some of you peep experts have a look at my photos and put my mind to rest about them being Westerns and crash my dreams of finding a pair of Curlew Sandpipers.
> https://ebird.org/pnw/view/checklist/S58944818 <https://ebird.org/pnw/view/checklist/S58944818> >
> Don Berg