Mystery Sandpiper 8-13-2010

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Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
#1
I have been going through old photos stored on hard drives and deleting ones that are bad or repetitive. The process has been very educational as I ponder why a photo was bad and what I can do to take a better one. At the rate I am going, I don't know if I will ever get through them all.

I came across photos of a lone shorebird that I took on 8-13-10 at Shell Creek Spit in Edmonds. The spit can be seen during low tide by looking north up the shoreline from Sunset Ave. or Brackett's Landing. Birds use the spit as a source of fresh water for drinking and bathing.

At first glance the bird looks like a dunlin, but its body seems taller and thinner and its legs seem longer. It also appears to be a lighter color than dunlin that I have photographed in Edmonds, especially in the breast and neck. I wonder if it could be a curlew sandpiper, a native to the Siberian Arctic that closely resemble dunlin. According to the the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, a few curlew sandpipers turn up on the Atlantic Coast every year, but it is only a rare visitor to the rest of North America.
http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/curlew-sandpiper

There have been reports in Tweeters of sightings of curlew sandpipers in Washington. I would like to hear the opinions of others as to whether this is a curlew sandpiper, just another dunlin, or some other bird. I have more photos, but these are the best. The bird was by itself, so there are no photos of it with other birds for a size reference.

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#2
The coloration and patterns around the face and neck look right, and I believe we can see a slight downturn at the end of the bill. It seems your ID may be correct.

Max
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
#3
I received an e-mail from a prominent local birder who believes it is a curlew sandpiper. Several people suggested I submit my photos to the state committee that certifies rare bird sightings (can't recall its official name). I have started that ball rolling.
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
#4
I got a reply back from the Washington Bird Records Committee of the Washington Ornitholigical Society (WOS). . They don't believe it is a curlew sandpiper but most likely a stilt sandpiper, citing a number of spotting features.
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
#5
I received one inquiry asking for particulars as to why the committee did not think it was a curlew sandpiper. Here is a portion of the e-mail I received.

I wanted to report that the Committee voted NOT to ACCEPT your report of a Curlew Sandpiper on 8/13/10, at Shell Creek Spit, Edmonds, Snohomish County. The Committee felt the details in the photo pointed more likely towards Stilt Sandpiper as the identity – the leg color might be obscured through lighting, the legs look too long for Curlew Sandpiper and more accurate for Stilt Sandpiper, and the bill does not look down-curved and attenuated enough for Curlew Sandpiper, though it would fit well for a Stilt Sandpiper. Another alternative, if the leg color is accurate as portrayed in black: Western Sandpiper on alert – the bill could still work for that, and the legs might still be ok for that. Overall, the committee felt Curlew Sandpiper was unlikely for this sighting.
 

Bill Anderson

Super Moderator
Staff member
#6


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