Monday, September 14, 2020

MA - Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Franklin County!


Buff-breasted Sandpiper (juvenile) - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. September 11th, 2020. 
Sensational find by Ted Gilliland in the late afternoon downpours of September 10th and, surprisingly, still present during the morning hours of September 11th. 

On Friday morning (Sep 11th) I'd planned to check some sites around Deerfield hoping for my first Connecticut Warbler of the fall. It was cool, overcast and blustery and quite the contrast to the previous day's warmth that had been coupled with muggy, thundery showers. Indeed the day before, I'd spent quite a bit of time looking for grounded shorebirds, in particular I had Buff-breasted Sandpiper in mind which I'd found under similar conditions at Turner's Falls back in September 2017. My prize for all that work was a single, calling, flyover American Golden-Plover at Turner's Falls and, despite checking all my local Killdeer flocks, there wasn't a hint of anything with them, least of all a Buff-breasted Sandpiper!

Just before heading out to Deerfield, I quickly checked ebird noticing that Ted Gilliland had come across a Buff-breasted Sandpiper the previous evening. It was a spot that I knew well having had several encounters with Buff-breasts along the same road only a little further south on the Hatfield/Whately town line. Those observations included one of seven together during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005! Since I was heading south I really didn't have too much to lose by quickly checking the fields where Ted had his sighting the evening before. It was tough, distant and the conditions blustery but after 15 minutes of scanning through Killdeers I eventually found the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, ultimately moving around to a more sheltered spot for better views. Close-up, it looked to be a nice crisply marked juvenile. Though September is most certainly 'the' month to look for this species in Franklin County it's rare enough to justify a local chase and I'm pretty sure this bird was only my second away from the former favored spot on the Hampshire/Franklin county line, and well worth the effort!


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