Western Sandpiper, Gearhart, Oregon, 6 August 2011 by Greg Gillson.
In the winter, flocks of small sandpipers chasing the waves in-and-out on the beach are likely to be Sanderlings. However, during spring and fall migration, nearly any shorebird may be found on the beach.
These "peep" (small sandpipers in the genus Calidris, named for their peeping calls) are Western Sandpipers.
I took this photo near sunset while on a picnic at the beach this summer.
What else can we learn from this photo above?
The sandpipers have partial webs between the toes that you can see in these photos as a wedge at the base of the toes. The presence or absence of this feature is important to note for identifying certain rare Asian stints (name of peep in Europe and Asia) that show up from time to time in the Pacific NW. The abundant Least Sandpiper has unwebbed toes--practice seeing this field mark with these two common species so you are better prepared when something unusual shows up!
Sanderlings do not have hind toes. You can clearly see the small hind toe on the one raised foot of the Western Sandpiper above.
There are three bright, colorful, and crisply-plumaged juveniles on the right, one disheveled dull-backed adult on the left with chevrons on the sides of the breast. Most adults start migrating back to the wintering grounds several weeks before the juveniles. This photo was taken during the period of overlap in early August.
Juvenile Western Sandpiper, Gearhart, Oregon, 6 August 2011 by Greg Gillson.
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