Semipalmated Sandpiper

Beacon Ponds (near my caravan!)

Full day last Saturday, guiding both morning and afternoon. Observers from afar might have thought the strong  (mainly)  west + southwesterly winds on Britain’s east coast not especially conducive to memorable birding. We had a great day! plenty of visible migration action involving  plenty of Swallows, Martins and Meadow Pipits (1 Tree Pipit), Redpoll, Linnets, Siskins, sparrows etc. Lovely close views of excellent variety of juvenile waders and grounded migrants like Chiffchaff and Wheatear. Odd bits and pieces like Little Gull, Manx Shearwater and excellent views of several Arctic Skua. Who would have thought though? The day’s end brought a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipier. What a cool bird!

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, 10 September 2011, Beacon Ponds. © Ian Smith. With juvenile Dunlin. The ID process was still in flux when we arrived, somewhat exacerbated by the distant viewing condition. It was an interesting ‘test case’ viz juvenile Red-necked Stint and greyer juvenile Little Stints.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, 10 September 2011, Beacon Ponds. © Ian Smith. with Dunlin. At one stage a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper also kept it close company.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, 10 September 2011, Beacon Ponds. © Ian Smith. For me there were some key features at long-range that helped secure the ID. The bird was dumpy, often almost ball-shaped, not especially long looking at the back-end. It was clearly something ‘good’ due to the very cold black/ grey upperparts and mostly gleaming white underparts (bit of breast side streaking and lovely warm fudge coloured wash). There were no warm tones above, in fact all the scapulars and coverts often looked of the same type of pattern, no obvious contrast between darker scapulars and paler coverts. So the upperparts pattern, body shape and primary projection all seemed to most favour Semipalmated. Then at one point I just managed to detect partial webbing (palmations) between the toes as it fed on sandy ground. Great learning, great bird! For me the distance that the bird was photographed at make it look a little more washed-out than in life (though photographers did amazingly well).

Photos showing more typically dump posture are here 

By way of  comparison a rather greyish juvenile Little Stint taken the same day, nearby at Patrington Haven  © Martin Standley

For fuller list of birds seen over the weekend see here. A few pics of the other stuff. And it was a Little Gull. One of 2 first winters detected way out over the Humber that kindly came and flew straight over our heads.

first winter Little Gull. One of two which flew together over our heads at the ‘Narrows’

Spurns regulars wrestling with and eventually delighted by the juvenile Semipalmted Sandpiper, at Beacon Ponds with grateful thanks to finder, Mick Turton.

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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1 Response to Semipalmated Sandpiper

  1. julianhough says:


    Cool bird…hard to see too much detail, but given the geography of beacon ponds, any shots are good! I guess there’s been a lot of Semi-ps in the UK already this autumn, probably as a result of the intense weather systems we’ve had here in the US. Not easy out of context, so a great find by Mick (?) et al.!

    Coincidentally, I just put up some posts on my blog with some recent semip and western shots that may be of interest/reference (may need to scoll down a tad..):

    Good Birding,


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