Arctic shorebirds seen on Raquette River

Last Sunday, I went for a long paddle on the Raquette River. Bill L. and I left Raquette River Drive and we paddled around the oxbow near the Wild Center and returned. On the muddy shoreline, we spotted two birds, with long beaks. I said “Those birds look like beach birds”. They were picking through the mud with their long beaks. They were not afraid of the canoes which made me wonder where they were from.

When I returned to Binghamton, sunday night I read the Press and Sun Bulletin. Our local naturalist reporter had spotted the same birds (or so I surmise) on the river banks in Binghamton. He is a little more expert than I and decided they were pectoral sandpipers. By his desciption, they sound like the same bird. I checked the Cornell bird web site and the pictures matched the juvenile pectoral sandpiper.

the picture is from

Here is the article in the paper:

The Great Outdoors: Look up, around to appreciate passing shorebirds
Written by Rick Marsi

5:30 PM, Aug 23, 2013 |
If shorebirds are meant to be found at the shore, then why are so many right here? They’re here because August is migration time, when these birds go from Point A to Point B. We lucky souls find ourselves pretty much in the middle.
To be called a shorebird, you must frequent the shores of coastal or inland waters. Birds doing this include sandpipers, plovers and snipe. For those passing through Central New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania right now, Point A is a place they have recently left: high Arctic tundra in Canada and Alaska. That’s where shorebirds build nests during summer.
Point B is where they’re headed for winter. These destinations vary, but many birds passing through our area will spend the winter on coastal beaches and in marshes from the southeastern United Statesto the Gulf of Mexico.
Some shorebirds begin leaving tundra nesting grounds by late July. Such an early departure can be explained by the Arctic’s brief summer. This season is bountiful, providing endless sunny days and countless insects for feeding young. But it is short.
Thus, a shorebird pair makes haste in reproducing before taking an exit that will spare them impending cold weather.
On the river this week, I saw two pectoral sandpipers. They were foraging on a mudflat, probing muck with their bills — up and down like two sewing machines.
Plump little birds, maybe 8 inches long if you stretched them straight out — they sported beige and brown plumage on their backs and heads, pure white bellies and a distinctive brown streaked breast.
Not the most beautiful birds I have seen, but I still felt so good when I saw them.
Think of the journey they’ve already taken: flying thousands of miles down along Hudson Bay, over vast trackless forests of Canadian spruce, over Great Lakes and into New York. When they drop down to rest and find food on their journey, their landing spot might be a Finger Lake shoreline, or the bank of my small winding river.
They don’t seem in a hurry, with the Arctic behind them. They might linger here days, even weeks.
While they do, I will think of their tundra beginnings, somewhere around 70 degrees north latitude, in places so remote you can’t reach them on most of the planet.
Some Arctic nesting areas are accessible. And birders do visit them, despite long airplane flights, hordes of tundra mosquitoes and primitive living conditions. They put up with such hardships to see shorebirds in their breeding plumages, which are brighter than winter attire.
Page 1 of 2 Aug 29, 2013 09:50:19AM MDT
I escorted a tundra birding trip several years ago. Our destination: the northernmost coast of Norway, at the edge of the Barents Sea. Upon our arrival, the wind blew so hard, we could barely get the car doors to open. Yet, there on the tundra nestled a tiny sandpiper called the least stint, sitting on eggs in a gale.
I think of that shorebird at this time each year, when the first migrant shorebirds arrive. Wish them well as they pass through on one of the natural world’s most inspiring migrations.


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