Today I went to the Edith Read Sanctuary in Rye, NY. The sanctuary is right behind a large amusement park, and can only be accessed through the parking lot. There is a large lake on one side of the road and the long island sound on the other. The lake is known for wintering ducks, such as canvasbacks and scaup.
We (that is to say, my dad and I) stopped there first, and scanned. Bufflehead, DC Cormorants, and Mallards were common. There were two american widgeon as well. A Canada x Snow goose hybrid was also interesting. Then I spotted a group of scaup.
Scuap ID is tricky, to say the least. One bird seemed a fairly easy greater. Greenish gloss, forward peak on the head. The other male had purple gloss and a slightly differently shaped head. As close to a definite lesser as I'm ever going to get. I counted it. Life bird.
A red-tailed hawk perched in a tree right next to the nature center. There was one there last february too. Maybe the same bird. This guy was not going to move just because a couple of birders walked by his tree. We got amazing looks. Reddish tail, talons, piercing brown eyes, and all.
Reaching the sound, we stopped and scanned. I spotted a cluster of blobs moving on the rocks pretty far offshore. We moved closer, and got the view of behavior and silhouette that clinched the Id- my life purple sandpipers.
No one has ever been astounded by how purple these sandpipers are, and no one ever will be. They are most definitely gray. They are pretty cool birds though. And tough. That water was freezing, and they were on slippery rocks partially submerged in it. They must have some seriously warm feathers.
Back to the name. Rock Sandpiper, the western version, is well named. So I propose changing the purple sandpiper to the Atlantic Rockpiper, and the Rock Sandpiper to the Pacific Rockpiper. The sand part is a misnomer too. Hence the Rockpiper label. It's perfect.
After pausing to look at the hawk, who was still in the same place as before, we departed.
Before today I had not seen a lifer since September 26. Not a bad way to end a drought.
Below: Purple Sandpiper. Photo from Wikipedia.
Oh, and for anyone waiting for a follow-up on that owl- We missed it. I will try again when the long eared owls arrive, and get 2 species in one trip. At least, that's the plan. It won't work though. They hate me.