Monday, November 21, 2016

Peep Show at Blenheim

As many of you already know there is a calidris sandpiper at Blenheim Sewage Lagoons.  (these small sandpipers are affectionately called "peeps").  It was found November 13 by Steve Charbonneau and initially identified as a Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Things came to a head on Sunday when there was suggestion that is a Western Sandpiper.
While both species can occur in November, Western is more likely at a later date.
I saw the bird on Saturday under such brutal conditions (it was the weekend!) that I did not bring a scope.  I assumed at the time it was a Semipalmated Sandpiper as originally identified.

While I was birding at Sarnia on Sunday, I received an email saying that the bird was a Western.  I prompted Steve to look into it!

Steve sent out some requests for review and received several responses.  Of the 11 I looked at, five said it was certainly a Western Sandpiper, two said Semipalmated, and four said probably Western.
There will be more opinions to come no doubt.

These two species can be controversial at times and I have read debates on this before.  Sometimes there is not 100% agreement.

I looked at eBird records of both species in November.  Of course eBird is only as good as the data inputed, so I am sure there are more records out there.
I found that there were several records of Semipalmated Sandpiper early in November, while most of the Western Sandpiper records are mid to late in the month plus a couple of December records.
Western Sandpiper winters farther north, so it makes sense that records are later.

It seems more likely that the Blenheim bird would be a Western Sandpiper at this date.

Here are the late records of Western Sandpiper that I found on eBird in southern Ontario:
2 November 1997 Point Pelee
15 November 1970 Port Colborne
16 November 1997 Rodney
24-28 November 1986 Taquanyah C.A. (Haldimand)
1-3 December 1988 Oshawa Second Marsh
16 December 2001 Rondeau Provincial Park (2 birds) -CBC record -fide P. Allen Woodliffe

Personally I think is most likely a Western based on the photos I have seen.  Allen Woodliffe has some decent photos and I heard that there were some good ones taken today by others.  I only have access to the initial photos taken by Steve Charbonneau (see below).

One thing to look at is the bill.  Western has a longer bill and this seems longish to me.  However, there can be overlap as short male Westerns overlap with long female Semipalmated.  A Western also has a slight droop to the bill.  The second photo shows a hint of this.

Photos by Steve Charbonneau

Late update....
Mike Bouman has obtained some good photos and here is one.

photo by Mike Bouman
So what is it?

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. It's a peep until someone tells me otherwise! This bird frustrates me....