Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rock Sandpiper

Erika and I gave the Rock Sandpiper one more try. We drove around Gray's Harbor and checked out the north jetty at Ocean Shores, Washington. As you can see in these photos, we found our nemesis bird. One reason this species can be hard to list is that it is a late fall (October-November) and early spring (April) migrant, thus a relatively small window in time exists in the winter range to see this rock-loving sandpiper. Further, they return to specific wintering areas. Thus knowing about the north jetty at Gray's Pass may be critical to easily find them. We found them feeding among the rocks, dropping down as waves receded, only to pop back to rock-tops as the next waves crashed into the rocks.

Reading about Rock Sandpipers in Gill et al. (2002), I learned a new word, pagophilic, which means ice-loving. Perhaps because these birds winter further north than other North American shorebird, they often roost on sheets of ice. I also learned that Rock Sandpipers, during migration, can be found on muddy or sandy tidal flats away from rocks. Rocky and/or man-made substrates, however, are the rule in their winter range from coastal southern Alaska to northern California.

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