After Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer, the easiest shorebird to observe in Manhattan has been the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The first two are regularly seen in Central Park, with Solitary much harder to find in many years, such as this one. Killdeer occasionally puts in a spring showing on the Great Lawn or northern ball fields, but it can be had almost year-round at Randall’s Island. Semipalmated Sandpiper usually requires an early-August visit to one of the saltmarshes in Inwood, where flocks of a hundred or more sometimes show up.
As you may have read in my previous blog post, these large flocks did not appear this year, and I had mostly given up on getting the Semipalmated Sandpiper along with another less common shorebird, the Least Sandpiper. A Least was noted once this spring on the Central Park Reservoir. It has also sometimes visited the northeast shore of Randall’s Island, where I had it in June 2013.
After several misses, I decided not to go to Inwood again unless I was reasonably sure of adding a new year bird. On August 19th there was a morning eBird report of Least Sandpiper on Spuyten Duyvil Creek at Inwood Hill Park. I hesitated chasing it, missing low tide, and then ended up going in the afternoon and finding a single Least Sandpiper on the rocky eastern shore of the bay.
Two days ago, on the morning of August 26th, an eBird report of nearly 20 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Muscota Marsh (adjacent to Spuyten Duyvil Creek) called me to action again. This time I could plan to arrive near the 4:15 p.m. low tide.
I immediately saw a small flock of what appeared to be a dozen mostly Least Sandpipers feeding on the eastern side of Spuyten Duyvil Creek. It was hard to tell at distance whether or not any Semipalmated were mixed in — the sun’s glare increased viewing difficulty. But nearly an hour later, after I searched other parts of the area, the flock came almost right up to the eastern shore. I was able to view markings distinctly and picked out two birds with distinctly gray coloring — Semipalmated Sandpipers, at last, my 189th species of the year.