This week’s photo, taken January 27, 2013 in Blaine, WA, features a LEAST SANDPIPER. As we discover, sometimes it’s difficult to find the world’s smallest shorebird, even when it’s right in front of you.
On Sunday, I drive 2 hours north to Blaine (just south of the Canadian border), to participate in a bird field trip sponsored by Washington Ornithological Society. Our leader has been birding the shoreline of Blaine for 36 years, so I guess he’s qualified. As our group of 11 stands on a viewing platform overlooking the entrance to the harbor, plenty of birds are floating on the water below, including COMMON and RED-THROATED LOONS, RED-NECKED and HORNED GREBES, SURF SCOTERS, a PIGEON GUILLEMOT and a LONG-TAILED DUCK. High overhead, a PEREGRINE FALCON soars, its presence a reminder that all birds, while looking for a meal, should stay alert so they don’t become a meal.
Later on we approach a boat ramp that leads down to the water. One of the more experienced birders in our group suddenly stops and announces, “LEAST SANDPIPER!” He is staring down at the ramp, and although we are all standing close by, most of us don’t immediately see what he sees. The mostly brown bird blends in fairly well with the surrounding surface, yet it’s the bird’s tiny size that fakes us out because we’re all looking for a bigger bird. Perhaps the alert bird-watcher should have said, “WORLD’S SMALLEST SANDPIPER!”