LEAST (BUT NOT LAST) SANDPIPERS ON ABACO


Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

LEAST (BUT NOT LAST) SANDPIPERS ON ABACO

There are 23 sandpiper species recorded for Abaco. Of those, 4 or 5 are vanishingly rare vagrants recorded once or twice in recent history (i.e. since about 1950).

Discounting those, the ones you are likely to encounter range from the large  (whimbrel, yellowlegs, dowitchers, stilts) to the small. Or, in the case of the least sandpiper, the least big of all. They are bigly little. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

The binomial name of the least sandpiper – Calidris minutilla – is an apt clue to their size, the second part being Latin for “very small”. On Abaco, they are fairly common winter visitors, and each season a handful of them make their home on the beach at Delphi, where these photos were taken. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

Along with their small sandpiper compadres such as SANDERLING, these busy, bustling birds of the shoreline are the ones known as “peeps” (also as stints). Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

Least Sandpipers breed in the northern tundra areas of North America. Like many or most shorebirds, newly hatched chicks are able to fend for themselves very quickly. It sounds unlikely I know, but within a couple of weeks or so they have fledged. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

The birds forage on mudflats, in the tideline on beaches, and in wrack. They will probe into soft sand, sometimes the full length of their beak. They will even burrow right under weed to get at the concealed goodies. Their diet consists mainly of small crustaceans, insects, and snails.Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Credits: All photos by Charles Skinner (contributor to “The Birds of Abaco”) except the wrack-burrowers above, by Keith Salvesen (also on the Delphi Beach).

Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

“PIPER” (THE SANDERLING?) – THE ULTIMATE CHICK FLICK?


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“PIPER” (THE SANDERLING?) – THE ULTIMATE CHICK FLICK?

Yes, yes, I realise that Pixar / Disney’s latest candidate shoo-in for the Oscar in the ‘Totes Adorbz Animatid Tweetie Pie’ category isn’t actually real. [Oh! Did I really need to put a *spoiler alert* before that first sentence, I wonder? If so, sorreeeeeeee!] Piper, the awesomely cute chick star of the already famous ‘short’, is clearly a shorebird of some sort. She’s obviously not a piping plover named ‘Piper’ – indeed, judging by the appearance of her mom, she is obviously based on one of the small sandpiper species. In fact, she most resembles a SANDERLING (Calidris Alba) who is, not unreasonably, called ‘Piper’. 

According to an article in THE VERGE, the film-makers spent a great deal of time with shorebirds, especially sanderlings, studying all their little ways for verisimilitude in the film. Not just in appearance, of course, but in movement and behaviour (see viddy below).

A real (as opposed to CGI / cartoon) sanderling strutting its stuff on the Delphi beachSanderling, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“KEEP CLAM AND OPEN IT”636005803745806295-Piper-1.pub16.1-RGB

PIPER the film is described thus: “This wordless short follows a young bird who’s forced by her mother to start collecting her own clams. Her first attempt is a disaster. A crashing wave leaves the little bird soaked and terrified… She isn’t too eager to return to the shoreline, but, with the help of a tiny hermit crab, Piper musters the courage to try again and even starts to enjoy the hunt”. 

Sanderlings love water. They run along the tideline. They run towards the retreating tide to forage in the soft sand. They run away from the next wave as it rolls in. They run everywhere. Sometimes they bathe in rock pools or TIDE POOLS. Here’s a short video I took on the Delphi beach that demonstrates the crazy realtime scuttling that goes on.

And this is the very excellent BIRD & MOON take on Sanderling:

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SOME CUTE CLIPS from “PIPER”

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There’s no one in the world who’s going to have a word to say against this charming film, so not even having seen it I am going to cut to the chase with an immediate review:

ROLLING HARBOUR MOVIE RATING  images-2 images-2 images-2 images-2 images-2 wickle tiny fluffballs

THE OFFICIAL PREVIEW

Please note: as yet I have not faced the question of forthcoming animated animal films, but no doubt I’ll get round to a post, provisionally entitled “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind”.

Credits: Pixar / Disney, The Verge, Birdorable, Bird & Moon, open source material and self for the real bird on the beach + video clip. Also, Conserve Wildlife Foundation NJ and Wader Quest who posted similar jocular ornithological comparisons.

‘PEEP SHOW’: WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS ON ABACO


White-rumped Sandpiper (Woody Bracey)1

‘PEEP SHOW’: WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS ON ABACO

The White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis is one of a number of sandpiper species found on Abaco. You can see a gallery HERE. Many of them are confusingly similar, and it is with a sense of relief that one picks out some particular feature on a bird that marks it out from the other species.White-rumped Sandpiper_ACH3425 copy

The white-rumped sandpiper has, for a start, a white patch that shows above the base of the tail, rather in the manner of the yellow-rumped warbler. It is the only sandpiper with such a feature, and it is conclusive of ID… if you actually see it. You’ll notice that in the header image and the one above, no such white patch is visible. So although it is undoubtedly there, the bird you happen to be looking at – perhaps at a distance – may not have arranged its position and feathers to assist you. Frankly, the birds in the WRS group below are not cooperating either, except the furthest (blurry) one.

White-rumped sandpiper (Rick elis.simpson wiki)

You can’t see it on this bird either, as it forages in a pond, spreading concentric circles across the waterWhite-rumped Sandpiper (Woody Bracey)2White-rumped Sandpiper (Woody Bracey)3

Nor with this one. In fact, I have looked at dozens of photos to find a clear shot of said white marking and found only one really good one… but hedged around by the thick thorny protection of copyright.

White-rumped_sandpiper_(2) Rick elis.simpson wiki

However all is not lost. There is another feature of this sandpiper species that is unique to it, at least on Abaco (it is found also in the Baird’s sandpiper, but you won’t see that bird on the island). The unusually long wings of the white-rumped sandpiper extend beyond its tail when it is on the ground. You can see this in the photos above. It is a feature that should be clearly visible as you watch a bird on the shore, even if it isn’t showing its white rump. Here’s a very helpful composite from the Crossley ID Guide (Eastern Birds). You can see the extended wing length in the birds in the foreground. And if you look at the birds in flight, you will see the white rump exposed.

White_Rumped_Sandpiper_From_The_Crossley_ID_Guide_Eastern_Birds

Like all peeps, these birds make high-pitched weebling sounds, which I have seen described as ‘like a child’s squeaky toy’. Here’s a small flock make a characteristic noise.

Ian Cruickshank / Xeno Canto

You will often see a WRS mixed up in a group of other shorebirds, so the wing-length ID method will help pick it out. Also, it will be notably larger than some, for example semipalmated sandpipers. White-rumped Sandpiper + 2 semi-palmated(Woody Bracey)1White-rumped Sandpiper (Woody Bracey)5

NB They are not always found on the shore or in waterWhite-rumped_Sandpiper (Tim Bowman wiki)

Watch white-rumped sandpipers foraging

Credits: Woody Bracey, Tony Hepburn, Rick Elis Simpson, Tim Bowman, Crossley Guides, Xeno Canto