Sunday, January 11, 2009

Purple Sandpiper

(c)2009 SmellsLikeGrapeB is working on a paper for her class and preferred that I didn't hang around the house and distract her. I took a drive over to East Gloucester to see Joey (of Good Morning Gloucester) at Captain Joe and Sons Lobster Co. and to pick up “a couple of frisky ones” for dinner tonight. I didn't see Joey but I got my two lobsters and went over to Eastern Point to walk out on Dogbar Breakwater. I had a hunch that there may be something special out there.

I met up with a group of birders at the Audubon property on Eastern Point. They have seen some pretty cool stuf that morning...King Eider, all three scooters, Black Guillemot, and Eared and Horned Grebes. Sounds like they had a good day. Since I didn’t bring my binoculars and spotting scope, I just gave them a tip to watch out for Iceland Gulls in the Inner Harbor and pointed out some American Black Ducks so I didn’t look like a total dweeb.

I was actually on a mission, I was looking for something particular and photographable so I started out on the half mile long Breakwater looking for my quarry: Purple Sandpipers.

I’ve seen Purple Sandpiper here in March and April and didn’t see them the last time I was here in mid December, so I wasn’t too sure they would be there. About half way out I saw a flock of peeps take off and fly around, that would be them!

Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Purple Sandpipers are chunky little shorebirds. They are very active, probing the intertidal seaweed and rocks for their food. I’ve noticed that in a given flock, they will be foragers, preeners, bathers and others just looking around. Here is a photo that illustrates this point. The consequence of this is that they are tough to shoot in low light conditions because the one that is holding still and looking around starts twitching around as soon as you get the shot set up!

Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse
When they probe the seaweed for pray, they have a very quick Singer sewing machine action.

Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse
Eventually, you will find some that are just chillin’ and this is you chance to take a good picture.

Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse
They seem to enjoy each other’s company. I’ve notice that there is very little squabbling.

Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse
Somewhere in the flock, you will find someone snoozing on the job. Maybe he is just warming up that bill! That water is cold!


Purple Sandpiper. © 2009 ShootingMyUniverse


With a little patience, you can work with these birds and get a nice cock-of-the-rock shot.

My hat's off to these little guys. The bread way up on the very northern shores of Canada and Western Greenland. They winter on the northern maritime regions of Canada down through the Mid Atlantic States on coastal, rocky shores. Not exactly a vacation in Aruba. They are going to be out there all night long, I had to get back home and warm up. It goes to show, toughness does not require bulk.

20 comments:

A New England Life said...

I don't think I've ever seen these birds before Steve. Apparently there are many oceanside birds I have not seen after hearing your list.

Glad you had a lucky day of shooting at the beach while B was able to get her work done.

Jenny said...

Hi Steve
Some beautiful photos again. The colours of rock and seaweed perfectly match Purple Sandpipers. I see them down on the south coast of England at Portland usually.

Kerri said...

Gorgeous birds! I just LOVE their beak!!

Steve B said...

Hi Sharon, B was got a lot of work done while I was gone.

Hi Jenny, Wouldn't you agree that they are great birds? I was so delighted the day I discovered them. Besides, how many shore birds are willing to tough out the winter in the norther areas?

Hi Kerri. My old Shorebirds An Identification Guide by Hayman, Marchant and Prater discribes them: "A dumpy, fairly large calidrid with a longish, slightly drooping yellwish-based bill and short yellowish legs." I don't think the are dumpy, I think they are rather cool.

Marvin said...

Having grown up along the Texas coast, I'm accustomed to seeing various sandpipers (mostly willets) skittering along the wave line on sandy shores. Thanks for providing such great shots of their smaller, northern cousins.

NCmountainwoman said...

What lovely little birds. You have to admire their toughness.

I'm so jealous of your lobster. The ones we get here just aren't as good as yours. Enjoy them.

Kallen305 said...

I have seen sandpipers before, but not those. Very nice photos of them.

I hope you enjoyed the lobster!

Craig Glenn said...

Great photographs and information. Richard from "At the Water" recomended your site. I love it and will be back.

Craig

Jenny said...

I do agree they're amazing birds. They often barely dodge the rough waves and you're sure they will be swept off the rocks or cliffs. Supremely adapted to their habitat!
Glad you found them! (-:

Steve B said...

Hi All, It is always my pleasure to show someone something they may have never seen before.

Hi Marvin, I'm afraid you're going to have to come up the cold to see these.

Hey NCMW, ya, those lobsters were good. Check over to SmellsLikeGrape in a couple of days.

Hi Kim, you can easily find them, we are at the end of Rt 128, not at the end of the world!

Hey, Jenny just saw a snowy owl!

Steve B said...

Welcome to Craig Glenn! You're welcome any time, the door is always open and the light is always on.

The Early Birder said...

Steve, great pictures of the Purple Sandpipers. These have been my bogey wader in the UK for many years but I found my first on the 1st Jan so checking out your site has made my day. I'll be dropping by from time to time.

Doug Taron said...

Hi. Just found you via Joan in South Africa. You have a great blog. I'm from Cape Ann originally. I saw purple sandpipers on the Eastern Point breakwater the day after Christmas, 2007. Then ran into a bunch of folks all worked up over finding a slaty-backed gull in the salt pond. This year was not a god time to walk the breakwater around Christmas!

Gardener's Garden said...

I found you on "At the Water" and really love your photos....I'll be back!

Tabib said...

The last picture is of a National Geographic Magazine quality.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Beautiful shots STeve but I wonder how they got their name as they do not look purple to me. :)

A New England Life said...

There you are Steve! I see you have your lobsters in hand too.

Checking out Captain Joes I can't help but wonder how cheap is Cheap, Cheap, Cheap Lobster! It's been a long time since we've had lobster in this house.

Eve said...

Stunning stunning stunning photographs Steve. And a wonderful read.
I would have had to arm wrestle you for one of those lobstahs!!

Steve B said...

Hi all, I see some new traffic coming in from At The Water. Thanks for stopping by. This post was a little insane. I usually don't write too much, (that is, if you don't write too good, don't write too much).

To answer Joan, According to my copy of The Dictionary of American Bird Names, the Purple Sandpiper is named for the purplish hue on its back. Hmmm...maybe in breading when the sun is low reflecting off of the ice? Of the four guides I have of the region, none use the word purple in the description. Go figure.

The lobster prices are down, but they are still a treat in our home. Maybe two or three times a year at most.

Stacey Huston said...

Great shots. I love these.. thanks for sharing..

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