Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stilt Sandpiper

As most birders know, extreme weather events sometimes bring unusual birds. At Sandy Hook, it rained almost continuously for the last 48 hours; when today the weather finally cleared, there was this Stilt Sandpiper. I found the bird together with a Greater Yellowlegs in an enormous puddle near the hawk watch platform this morning. That puddle has been there since the previous storm more than two weeks ago, and had been slowly shrinking. This morning it was bigger than ever, and made for improvised shorebird stopover habitat.

Stilt Sandpiper is a shorebird that's fairly common on the East Coast in fall migration - which for many shorebirds starts midsummer. In spring, many species, including the Stilt, choose a more inland route, and are rare this far north on the Atlantic.

The majority of Stilt Sandpipers winter in central South America, with smaller numbers wintering from the Salton Sea and locally on the Gulf Coast and in southern Florida further south. First arrivals on inland migration stopover sites are late March for the southern states, but their numbers typically peak mid-April to early May. On today's bird, a few retained juvenile lower scapulars indicate that it was a younger individual.

Both sandpiper and yellowlegs did not stay long; a few hours later they could not be relocated.

The regular hawk watch was, not surprisingly, uneventful. Raptor migration should pick up the next two days, with birds riding a warm front.


Patrick B. said...

Hi John, glad to see you're back at the Hook. That Stilt Sand is an interesting find for sure.

johnvandort said...

Thanks for your comment, Patrick! I look forward to seeing you again on the platform sometime this spring.