Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Purple Sandpiper and Glaucous Gull a Nice Finish to 2012

***Happy New Year!***

Yesterday, I had been birding in the late morning, near Kingsville.  I wanted to see some Snow Buntings and knew of a great field where they tend to be easily seen. I had good luck with them, I had amazing views of Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs when I finally decided to drive home and do some chores. I happened to check my email and read about Blake's posting about all the great birds at Lighthouse Cove, including a potential lifer, a bunch of white-winged Glaucous Gulls! ... But then, I noticed on my phone that I had a text from Kory Renaud... "Purple Sandpiper at the tip"...!?!?!? To my dismay, the message was about 3 hours old!  Long story short, I twitched the Purple Sandpiper. I was at some crossroads in the county so I used a GPS to get me to Point Pelee in the least amount of time.

While I was writing this posting, it was funny for me to read two blog posts below share this same story but from two different perspectives, if you have time, check out Kory & Jeremy's take on this  awesome bird!

Upon arriving to the tip, I had brought my camera and a my scope. Nobody was around at the tip so I was going to have to find this amazing sandpiper myself ... if it was even still there! The wind at the tip was brutal, it must have been 50+KM... It was difficult just to stand, even my scope would be blown over if I did not hold onto it. After picking up my sand-encrusted scope off the beach for the second time, BOOM... I had found it, surprisingly close actually on the East Beach.

This was an amazing lifer. To think I've been looking at this bird in my birding field guides for three years, wondering if I would have to travel great distances just to see this bird. Further, I had read about this bird in Ontbirds postings from hotspots around Lake Ontario: Presqu'ile Provincial Park in Brighton, Bronte Beach, Niagara Falls, Kettle Point (Lake Huron)... But finally, Point Pelee hosts this excellent bird if only for an afternoon before it heads off. ... Who knows, it might stay for a while, I was thinking about how the west beach has lots of mossy, wave-washed rocks that is ideal habitat for this bird.


The sandpiper was associating with a few Starlings and a few (4) American Pipits. The wind was brutal so I did not linger at the tip. Blake's Ontbirds posting about Lighthouse Cove was on my mind. My GPS calculated a trip from PPNP to LC in less than 30 mins... So I was off!

Upon arriving at Lighthouse Cove on Lake St Clair, it was nice to see Jeremy Bensette as well as a few other familiar faces. Lighthouse Cove had lots of great birds to look at, including Pied-billed and Great- Horned Grebes. I've never seen so many Greater black-backed Gulls... (50+???) they were abundant!

Can you find Glaucous Gulls in this photo? This was the best I could do for an identification shot... It was cool to debate with Kory and Jeremy about the gulls. Some were pure white (from 200+ meters away) and others had light-grey backs ... which caused some debate about what we were looking at, we decided juvenile and adult birds in winter plumage respectively. See Cornell's online bird reference for more info about Glaucous Gulls here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Glaucous_Gull/id

Good birding!

Lifer Summary:
Purple Sandpiper: #314
Glaucous Gull:  #315


  1. Congrats on the lifers! Glad that the Purple Sandpiper stuck around for ya.

  2. Ooh I have tried for Purple Sandpipers the last few winters when visiting family in New England- no luck- they are such lookers! Congrats! I must say I'm a bit curious about a "Great-horned Grebe" ;)

  3. 16 Glaucous Gulls around Lighthouse Cove today plus Thayer's, etc.!
    Would have liked to have seen Purple yesterday!

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. Jen... Ha! I thought that sounded funny when I typed it. I think I meant to say it was a great (pause) "horned grebe". Blake, I don't think I'm at the point where I can ID a Thayers... Maybe though!



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