The birding in the area was also exceptional, at least for an Arizonan like myself. I photographed a lot of new species, but perhaps none more interesting than this super late Purple Sandpiper.
I recognized the bird and was very excited to see it for the first time, but having very little experience with shorebird IDs, I didn't think much on the matter while at the beach. It was only while entering my sightings into eBird that the little flag shot up. From what I could tell, this was only the second June sighting of a Purple Sandpiper in New Jersey in the last ten years, and the last one had come in 2003. These birds winter along the Atlantic coast, but it is very unusual to see one still lingering in June.
Thus, I am only left to conclude that this Purple Sandpiper waited around expressly for me to come and see him, which was very cordial of the stout little shorebird : ). It's a beautiful species, and it was a pleasure to watch him scuttle and forage along the rocky wharf with a dexterity I could not manage even in my dreams.
On this third photo, I can actually see and appreciate the subtle purple coloration on the feathers, which I'll admit escaped me while observing the bird in person.
After examining some other photos and getting some helpful input from some expert birders, I discovered I had seen a second Purple Sandpiper in its breeding plumage! This one traded in its purplish hue for a buttery gold. It was a sharp-looking bird, but I must admit I preferred the first molt.
The Purple Sandpiper is referred to as a bird of extremes. It likes to feed near breaking waves that threaten to sweep it out to sea at any moment, and it winters farther north than any other shorebird. I guess this pair wanted to prove that they were indeed extreme, but by no means predictable. Now perhaps they're going to stick it out through June longer than any other arctic breeder, so ha!
Posted by Laurence Butler