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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Erratum: or, Those Darn Peeps!

They call ‘em peeps. If only they could be as brightly colored or come in pleasant shapes like those little marshmallow Easter candies. But if it was that easy, it wouldn’t be fun, would it? In any case, you may remember from last week when James and I visited Oregon Inlet and found a black-legged peep that I had identified as a Semipalmated Sandpiper because, well, it had semipalmations! Turns out, as often happens in birding, I was wrong.

The suspect in question - Oregon Inlet, NC; 08/11/2011

Being in central North Carolina, I rarely, if ever, see other black-legged peeps besides the Semipalm. Occasionally a Sanderling will turn up, but they’re bigger and pale, and easier to ID. So it never even occurred to me to consider other birds, and after consulting several of the top birders in North Carolina, it turns out this bird is actually a Western Sandpiper. Good field marks are a slight droop to the bill towards the tip and a pattern of chevroned streaks continuing down the flanks. Bad field marks include black legs and webbing between the toes.

Still, it’s the best look I’ve ever had at a Western Sandpiper, even when I saw them in California. All the Westerns I’ve seen in North Carolina have been especially long-billed individuals, or juveniles with nice rufous scapulars, so it was nice to be set straight and learn a thing or two about advanced shorebirding. So, I guess this next one goes out to all the confusing peeps out there: bring it on!

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