Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dunlin and Sanderling

After discovering from eBird that Rock Sandpipers were still being seen on the pier jettys on either side of Gray's Pass, Washington, Erika and I made one last attempt to list this nemesis bird.  We actually made two attempts, as we first visited the south jetty, and, striking out, drove around Gray's Bay and searched the north jetty too.

On the south jetty, we tried to make a Surfbird into a Rock Sandpiper, but to no avail. We did, however, see a number of other shorebirds in the area. The flock photographed above is of a flock of sleeping sandpipers. The two slightly smaller, pale birds are Sanderlings. The remaining dozen birds would be difficult to identify were it not for the one bird with a black belly--a sure sign of a Dunlin.  In the spring Dunlin are not difficult, as you can see in the lower photo taken in the spring in northeastern South Dakota--black bellies, long, somewhat drooped bills, and reddish backs. Our Washington birds were, with the one exception, in basic, winter plumage.

I have previously posted on the Sanderling. The Dunlin is a common breeder across the Arctic regions of North America. In winter, look for Dunlin along the coasts of the United States and northern Mexico. The species is abundant. Some Alaskan breeders winter in eastern Asia. Migrants are likely to be found almost anywhere in the US. About a half million Dunlin winter on the Pacific Coast. Mortality in this population is in large part due to predation by raptors (falcons and hawks) (Warnock and Gill 1996).

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