Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Least Sandpiper

I took this series of photos a couple of weekends ago at Fort Stevens State Park's South Jetty. I was walking back towards the parking lot from the beach north of the jetty when I suddenly heard birds peeping at my feet. I looked down and there were dozens of sandpipers both in front of me in the broken rocks and to my left along a small stream in the sand.
I decided to concentrate on the birds to my left first as the lighting was much better than the birds in front me. These birds were spending some time searching for food, napping and keeping an eye on me.

Next, I swung around the other side of the birds in the rocks, taking a vantage point with the sun behind me. These birds were mostly trying to get in some napping. It was amazing to see so many sandpipers so close up and so camouflaged by the rocks they were resting in.
I was a bit confused with what they were as they were so plain looking. I'm used to seeing at least some rufous colored feathers on sandpipers this size, but these were very plain, almost gray looking. I was hoping they may turn out to be Rock Sandpipers, but the yellow legs kept yanking back to the more common Least Sandpiper.
Once I got home and looked through my field guides it became apparent that these were Least Sandpipers in non-breeding plumage.
One thing to remember when shooting birds near the beach; watch the tide! Even though I was a ways off from the beach, water creating small streams in the sand around me had risen while I was shooting the sandpipers to the point where the stepping stone bridges were covered over with water. Rather than getting my boots and feet all wet, I ended up having to walk a large loop through the marshy grassland to get back to the parking lot. :-)

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