A pair of Curlew Sandpipers were reported in New Hampshire along the coast in a large gathering of other “peeps” including White-rumped, Westerns, Pectorals, Buff-breasted and possible Bairds Sandpipers. Included in the flocks were the usual Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Plovers, Sanderlings, and a few Golden Plovers have also been seen. A small beach park along the coast north of
|Plaice Cove beach (in Hampton, NH) is where the blue stickpin is and just west (left) of that|
They were circling continually coming from many directions, appearing to land on the beach, only to circle around again. I looked over to the southern side of the rocky reef and the reason for their frantic flight became clear as I noticed a “bust” of a raptor peering over the stones along the edge of the beach; it was an immature Coopers Hawk. Wanting to take a picture, I put my scope down and readied my camera. Looking over to where the hawk was, I didn’t see it. Suddenly a brown blurr appeared from right to left and I managed a few quick shots.
The floating mat
The wrack forms a heavy and thick matt of trapped sea plants consisting of Irish moss, kelp and baldderwart both on the beach and floating on the sea like a large floating peat bog. The matt of sea plants projected a spectacular palette of color with a myriad of hues and values of greens, violets, yellows, oranges and browns painting a perfect background to contrast the monochromatically plumed Shorebirds.
As we were setting up our scopes, the nervous flocks of Shorebirds continually flew in circles around the area. They would land on the beach, and then take off again joining other flocks that were whirling around just off the beach. Finally after ten minutes, the birds settled on the beach a few yards in front of us, resuming their feeding activities on the matt. In front of us were five-hundred Shorebirds consisting mostly of Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Sanderlings; it was amazing! One of the birders exclaimed that he had a Golden Plover out in front on the beach.
Within a few minutes a second one appeared and then another. As I was looking through the birds (searching for the Curlew Sandpipers) a small bunch of five Pectoral Sandpipers landed in my view through my scope.
Still searching for those Curlew Sandpipers, I was also looking for Westerns and White-rumped, One of the birders said that he found a Buff-breasted and Tom almost immediately said that he had another one farther down the beach. The Buff-breasted Sandpipers eventually walked down the beach closer to where Jen and I were standing coming within two yards of us making it really easy to photograph them.
The first White-rumped Sandpiper of the day (digiscoped)
Within a few minutes I located three more in the middle of the large flock. Jen located three more Spotted Sandpipers in the boulders in front of us with a small group of Semi-palmated Plovers.
More Shorebirds flying in from both directions joined the Shorebirds on the beach which included another Golden Plover (the fourth), Pectoral Sandpipers, and the first Western Sandpiper of the day.
Western Sandpiper (bottom center) with a Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderlings and Semi-palmated Sandpipers
By this time, the sun made an appearance and the temperatures (with humidity) began to rise as well. Birders came and went as did the Shorebirds. Within a short period of time, Jen, Tom and I were the only ones of the beach except the Shorebirds which came and went. Their numbers continued to build, and suddenly there were over two hundred fifty Semi-palmated Sandpipers, three hundred Sanderlings, five Golden Plovers, seventeen Pectoral Sandpipers, seven Spotted Sandpipers, three Western Sandpipers, over two dozen White-rumped Sandpipers, a handful of Least Sandpipers, two dozen Semi-palmated Plovers, but (unfortunately) no Curlew Sandpipers.
Part of the flock of Shorebirds before they settled
Tom noticed a “new” arrival that had flown in unannounced: a Black-bellied Plover. We gave this bird a nickname which was not only obvious, but appropriate: “beach-master”! This late arriving Plover quickly established itself as the “ruler of the beach” and would assert its authority continually. It would chase the other Shorebirds away from its little established section of Irish moss matt “turf” and defended it sternly. The Plover seemed to be most threatened by the Golden Plovers and would posture to them constantly. The Golden Plovers gallantly defended their rights to the moss matt, but relenting from the larger and more aggressive Black-bellied Plover. These little dueling matches continued throughout our stay at the beach.
Heading south on Rte. 1 our second stop was only a short distance away. For the last two weeks a single American Avocet has been seen in
Part of the flock of Shorebirds (mostly Black-bellied Plovers) also stirred up by the Peregrine
Tom Robben Glastonbury, CT
Handsome adult White-rumped Sandpiper
Highlights from the day:
Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Semi-palmated Sandpiper. Semi-palmated Plover, Western Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Kildeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Loon, Gannet, Black Duck, Common Eider, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Double-crested Cormorant, Herring/Greater black-backed/Ring-billed/Bonapartes Gulls, Common Tern , Forster’s Terns, Great/Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Coopers Hawk, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcon