Monday, August 2, 2010

"Peeps Give Me A Headache!" Plover, Sandpiper Or Lover

Top left and right: Semipalmated sandpiper, Lower left: Spotted sandpiper, Lower right: White-rumped sandpiper. The photos were all taken on the same day at Totman Cove.
 "Peeps" is birding slang for any of a number of North American sandpipers. Their vocalizations are numerous versions of the sound, "peep peep peep." Even though it's only the first week of August, they are beginning to congregate for migration, so there are a lot more of them around these days. The youngsters accompany their parents, adding to the numbers and also the difficulty of identifying them. The plumage of the newbies is not as distinct as they will be next year. They also move really fast on the ground and in flight, so it's hard to get a good look, unless you can get a photograph. And as we know, that presents its own challenges. They can be seen singly, as in the case of the Solitary Sandpiper pictured below, or in large groups skimming the water surface in wheeling arcs. Peeps and plovers, at the end of summer, separate the men from the boys (as my father would have said) in the world of birding identifications.

These two photos of Semipalmated sandpipers were taken within a second of one another as the birds turned en masse against the sunlight, making them look like completely different birds. I was whizzing along in our small boat when they whizzed by me even faster. I nearly broke my neck and fell out of the boat trying to turn fast enough to photograph them. My husband, the helmsman says he would like advance notice when I intend to spin in my seat like that, lest I tip us over. Imagine that. In my efforts to be sure about identifications, before opening my mouth or zipping the keyboard beneath my fingers, I have spent way too much time beating myself up plowing through bird books. Ultimately, I'm probably wrong anyway. If I have mis-identified any of these, I'm sure my loyal readership will let me know. It's a lot more fun racing around in a tin boat with a boyfriend than it is looking through field guides anyway. I'll leave the academics of birding to those with less imagination than I have.  

This is a Spotted sandpiper beautifully camouflaged against the rocks. I've only seen them one at a time and always like this scurrying across the rocks.
Solitary Sandpipers don't hang out with other sandpipers. I only see one or two a year. When I took this shot, I thought I was photographing another Spotted Sandpiper, which I had just seen moments before. It wasn't until I developed the photo that I realized they were not one in the same.
This isn't a sandpiper at all, it's a Semipalmated plover. I know - you think this is a typo, since I just said that one of the birds pictured above is a Semipalmated sandpiper. Since it isn't a sandpiper, but a plover, it's not a peep, either, even though it looks cute enough to be called a "peep." Do you see now why they all give me a headache?

14 comments:

  1. beautiful capture; congratulations

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  2. Hi Robin, nice shots, and nice to have such birds close to home.Just cuz I know you're waiting... lower right is a nice, bright, juvenile Least Sandpiper.

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  3. Thanks, Ed. I feel a Homer Simpson "N-Doh!" head smack comin' on!

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  4. This was some "PEEP SHOW"...Wonderful photos! Love the camouflaged Sandpiper. Good thing you didn't fall out of the boat, camera and all!
    HG

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  5. Fantastic photos, as usual, and great info on plovers, sandpipers, etc.. You're lucky to live where you do, but I know luck has nothing to do with your great photography. As they say, 90% of life is "showing up" and you always show up in the right places... but also, when "they" show up, you seem to be right there to capture their images in the most wonderful ways. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Thanks Loretta and HG for your flattering words. Yes, at least half the game is just showing up, I agree. The other half is not falling out of the boat!

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  7. Right you are about the peeps. With warblers you just get a pain in the neck. With peeps you get frustration, but also great lessons in patient observation. I love their challenge. Good post.

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  8. These are wonderful photos and great information on them. I don't get to see too many sandpipers and am never sure which one, when I do see one.

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  9. Beautiful pictures, Robin. I love all these birds, though I'd never have known their names without your revealing words. Thanks!

    Rated. D
    Yarn Over
    August 03,

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  10. LOVE your pictures!
    AtHomePilgrim

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  11. Hi Robin, Loved the post and the pictures. We have much in common. Peeps give me a headache, too. No matter how hard I try, I just can't keep them straight! ~karen

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  12. Thank you, Karen! I keep trying. It seems i only get worse at it, though! I guess it's kind of an alternate universe thing. Ha ha! RRR

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