Thursday, November 14, 2013


On my recent New Jersey trip, I saw lots of tough late season shorebirds. I spent some time admiring these hardy little birds, and capturing their images. A few photos follow...
A flock of sandpipers rest on a cold, wave-battered jetty. The Atlantic Ocean provides the backdrop. Two Dunlin take a fleeting catnap in the foreground, while a Purple Sandpiper stands dead center. Another purple is far right, rear. The rest of the birds are Ruddy Turnstones.

A Purple Sandpiper peeks from behind an algae-encrusted rock. Were you there, you'd be serenaded by the never-ending crash of surf. The sandpiper's scientific name is Calidris maritima - the epithet maritima means "of the sea". These birds are well named. So tightly wedded to the sea are they, that a Purple Sandpiper is almost never out of earshot of the low roar of the waves.

Bunched up tight, a pack of Ruddy Turnstones scurries over the rocks, mouselike. These opportunistic sandpipers can find food nearly anywhere, and are second only to the Purple Sandpiper in winter hardiness, at least on the east coast.

Turnstones are clad in disruptive coloration. When at rest on lichen-dappled rocks, their parti-colored plumage blends nicely with the surroundings. Only the bright orange legs jump out.

This rotund little ball of feathers seems to stare pensively at the sea. I made this photo on the jetty at Barnegat Light, and these turnstones have traveled some 1,500 miles south from their high arctic breeding grounds to get there.

A Sanderling takes advantageous of the sucking vacuum of retreating waves. The water pulls back, ever so temporarily, the sandy substrate which exposes lots of tiny animals. Sanderlings charge into this void and grab up the critters in the narrow window between exposed beach and inundation.

Like kids playing a game of dare, the Sanderlings wait until the last second, when the wave is nearly upon them, before dashing up the beach and to safety. Seconds later, they'll charge back, following the water's retreat. Sanderlings are wave-runners supreme, and occur on most of the world's beaches. To most people, this is the quintessential sandpiper.


Michael Owen said...

Jim, it might be cool for you to publish a blog about the Kinglets who survive in Ohio during winter - would be interested in learning more on them.

ben said...

Your top photo seems to have two Purples, one on the far right.

Jim McCormac said...

Yes it does, Ben, as I pointed out in the caption :-).

Good idea, Michael, and I'll hope to cover that this winter.