Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpiper at Reifel

On Saturday (10/16/10) I finally made it out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in the hopes of tracking down the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper first reported there on October 2nd, I also hoped to see the more recently reported Wood Sandpiper. I’ve come to learn that being a university student and not owning a vehicle makes it exceptionally difficult to chase rarities in Vancouver and so it was quite lucky that I managed to visit the sanctuary on a day when both birds were cooperatively in view.

The two species were observed between 11:30 and 12:15 in and amongst a large flock of Long-billed Dowitchers near the base of the lookout tower. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was sticking to a reedy section of the pond more easily viewed from the western dyke than from the lookout tower; perhaps the bird had had enough of the steady stream of birders and photographers coming to view him or her and just wanted some privacy. The Wood Sandpiper spent most of the time I was there dozing in the middle of the tightly packed flock of Dowitchers making it a tough bird for me to pick out.

The size differences between Long-billed Dowitcher and Wood Sandpiper initially clued me onto the bird. With so many Dowitchers packed together and the sun angling into my face everything can start to look a little similar but luckily Wood Sandpiper measure in at 8” whereas the Long-billed Dowitcher is 11.5”; this allowed me to spot the bird on my third sweep through the flock. After observing it for a couple of minutes the bird raised its head and stretched out just long enough for me to completely confirm identification. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in the bird that I didn’t check the photos I was digiscoping, if I had I would have noticed that they were all unrecognisable blurry smears so the only shots I have to show you are crops of a picture of the entire shorebird flock. As you can see even these are not enough to qualify as record shots.

Thankfully the photos I took of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at least show enough to recognise the species. The bird was easily distinguishable from the Dowitchers and spent most of the time during which I observed it busily preening itself or resting.

Another fantastic outing at Reifel complete with two great birds, not to mention the huge numbers of returning Snow Geese in the fields of Westham Island, made for a pretty decent day.



2 Responses to “Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpiper at Reifel”

  1. 1 SC October 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Looks like the Dunlin with the Dowies mate.

  2. 2 Marc October 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Hi SC,

    I’ve uploaded another crop where the bird is showing a bit more of a stretched out neck and consequently looks a little less Dunlinish. With regards to the first photo, the bill does look slightly down curved and I can only guess that this is a result of cropping far too much on my 8 megapixel point and shoot; there just isn’t much detail there.

    I did see a Dunlin about 500m south of the lookout tower foraging with a group of Dowitchers and during my observation of the flock I only noticed about six Dowitchers flying in to join it; furthermore, I see only one Dunlin reported on eBird at Reifel on Saturday and Sunday (not really conclusive evidence, I know).

    I’m still kicking my self for not getting a better shot and this is a perfect reason to spend my money on a decent camera setup instead of blowing it away on a biology degree that does its best to keep me inside behind a book.

    What are your thoughts on the second shot I uploaded?

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