Monday, October 4, 2010

Talking Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

It is Monday late afternoon here in Chapel Hill and I am feeling a bit worn out from my redeye flight home last nite from Seattle. Yes, it's true, I made a 48 hour round trip out to the greater Seattle area in search of a horned puffin and some sharp-tailed sandpipers that were reported there on Friday. Both birds are on my "highly rare" list for the lower 48 states, plus a ruff had been seen in the same area in the past week. So Saturday morning I flew to Seattle, arriving about 6 PM, and drove about an hour north to Mt. Vernon to spend the nite.

Yesterday I woke up about 5:30 AM, but not to bird. I wanted to watch some of the Ryder Cup golf being played over in Wales. The golf played by the Euros was quite good, but unfortunately the Americans were off their game. So I headed out about 7:30 AM to visit the Skagit Game Range. I met 2 local birders and we all enjoyed watching 3 sharp-tailed sandpipers feeding in amongst a large group of mostly long-billed dowitchers. They were at least 75 yards away, but they literally "popped" visually mixed in with the dowitchers--smaller size, prominent rusty cap and white eye line, orangey breast area, bright white below and warm brown wings. Being a life bird for me, my only wish was that they had been closer to us.

From there I drove about an hour to a lookout point called Libbey Beach located on Whidbey Island. I spent the entire afternoon scanning for the horned puffin that was seen there on Friday. I was joined early in the afternoon by John Puschock, a birder who lives in Seattle that I have been emailing lately about the birds I will be looking for later in the year in the greater Seattle area. We saw a good variety of seabirds including harlequin ducks (top and bottom photos above) and surf scoters (middle photo above--click on photo to enlarge). Other birds seen included red-throated, common and pacific loons; red-necked, horned and western grebe; white-winged scoter; brandt's and pelagic cormorants; marbled murrelets; rhinocerous auklets; and common murres, but nary a horned puffin. About 5 PM we packed it in for the day.

For the week 58 birds have been seen, and the sandpiper raised the YTD up to 683. I will be heading back to California on Wed. morning. I did not see a ruff up in Washington, so I will still be on the look-out for one later this week probably down at the Salton Sea. Stay tuned!


  1. Rhinocerous auklets ~ truly a bird or are you trying to pull one over on us! (Alright I googled the bird and does fit the curious name.)

  2. Chris,

    No help on the owl locations as the research team is not allowed to give out locations. Sorry I thought she might be some help.

  3. Congrats on the lifer. Glad you got to bird with John, always a lot of fun.