Thursday, June 7, 2012

Purple Haze

Yesterday Maria and I went to the beach along her sister Rose and brother Max. Since I was driving, it was a bit of a catastrophe to get there, but all in all it was a lovely day. We went to Barnegat Bay and hung out near the famous old lighthouse on the northeast tip of Long Island Beach. The sea breeze and sound of breaking waves--these are things no person should go without for too long, and it was very nice to walk along sandy shores again.

The birding in the area was also exceptional, at least for an Arizonan like myself. I photographed a lot of new species, but perhaps none more interesting than this Purple Sandpiper.

I thought I recognized the bird, but having very little experience with shorebird IDs, I didn't think much on the matter while at the beach. It was only while entering my sightings into eBird that the little flag shot up. These birds winter along the Atlantic coast, but it is pretty unusual to see one still lingering in June.

Thus, I am only left to conclude that this Purple Sandpiper waited around expressly for me to come and see him, which was very cordial of the stout little shorebird. It's a beautiful species, and it was a pleasure to watch him scuttle and forage along the rocky wharf with a dexterity I could not manage even in my dreams.

On this third photo, I can actually see and appreciate the subtle purple coloration on the feathers, which I'll admit escaped me while observing the bird in person.

I believe this second bird is a juvenile Purple Sandpiper. I'll admit, I was hoping it was another new species, but it matches petty closely with other photos I cross-referenced online.

I originally thought this bird below was a precocious youngster. I received some insightful feedback (here's to you, Seagull Steve) though that leads me to believe it is, in fact, a Purple Sandpiper in its breeding plumage. Left to my own devices, I am embarrassed to say I would've assumed the Purple Sandpiper to get more purply when its breeding time. All the same, this makes me feel even more lucky.

The Purple Sandpiper is referred to as a bird of extremes. It likes to feed near breaking waves, and it winters farther north than any other shorebird. I guess this pair wanted to prove that they were indeed extreme, but by no means predictable. Now they're going to stick it out through June longer than any other arctic breeder, so ha!