Swallow Pond April 23, 2016
Solitary Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitchers; Lesser Sandpipers
Anne Heyerly had told me about the Solitary Sandpipers at Swallow Pond in West Eugene, so Janet Naylor and I went out to look for them on Saturday morning April 23 around 9am. Sylvia Maulding had announced this find at the SWOC meeting on Monday night. *(SWOC is the Southern Willamette Ornithological Club, which dates back to 1974)
I had to find out where Swallow Pond was since it was a name I had not heard before. I discovered it was a pond I had seen on Google maps but had never been to because there did not seem to be any public parking nearby. Anne told me I could park in the Shelton-Turnbull Print Shop parking lot, which is east of most of the pond and south of a "panhandle" section of it.
I arrived before 9, and right away I saw three Long-billed Dowitchers feeding quite close to my side of the pond, straight north of where I was parked. I'd not been this close to Long-billed Dowitchers before, nor had I seen any with such fresh brilliant colors on the backs, so I photographed them with as little fuss as possible.
We were lucky to find the Solitary Sandpipers very close to the parking lot. I saw one of them just a few minutes after arriving.
One important distinguishing mark of Solitary Sandpipers is their greenish-yellow leg color. One often cannot see their legs because of the depth of water they are standing in, but I was able to get several photographs showing this leg color.
Another field mark for the Solitary Sandpiper is a white eye-ring, which is complete, not broken or split.
Finally, another clincher of a field mark are the horizontal BLACK bars on the tail. These show well when the bird flies, but when standing still only small bits of the ends of these bars can be seen. You can see those bars and the other field marks in some of the following photos.
After our success with the Solitary Sandpiper at Swallow Pond, we had enough time to make a stop at Stewart Pond, a short distance away.
We drove slowly the length of the road, looking especially for Common Snipe often seen here. None were seen, nor was much of anything else until we came to Stewart Pond itself. Here we found several "peeps" just 15 or 20 feet from our cars, foraging in the shallow water. Janet and I independently came to the conclusion that these were Least Sandpipers. I've not been very confidant in the past at sorting Westerns from "Leasts", but these birds had greenish-yellow legs, not black legs, so that was a great help.
Dennis Arendt showed up while we were enjoying the Least Sandpipers alongside the road. We did introductions all around and he told us he could see we were very intently looking at something but from his car he couldn't see what we were looking at. He confirmed that these birds were indeed Least Sandpipers and after a while, he saw a Solitary Sandpiper and pointed it out to us. This one seemed to have a darker back, which was the only field mark that seemed absent at Swallow Pond.
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