[Tweeters] Wood Sandpiper still at Fern Ridge Resevoir

Nathaniel Peters ncpeters at u.washington.edu
Sat Oct 4 22:27:59 PDT 2008

Greetings Tweeters,

This morning (10/4) Michael Fleming and I made the trek down to Eugene
and arrived to learn that the Wood Sandpiper had been seen earlier in
the morning (8am-ish) but had been spooked by a Peregrine Falcon and
could not be located again. As the day progressed, more and more
birders (30+) showed up and spread out around the area where the bird
had been seen. Finally, at 2:50pm the bird was relocated about 150
feet out from the dike just a couple hundred yards left of the
observation platform.

Here are a couple things that I noted about the bird. It seemed to
like to hang around a group of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and was
very active. We did not see as much of the tail bobbing that had been
previously described, but the bird did move around a great deal. As
far as the physical appearance, I noticed in particular that the bird
appeared very plump, had a distinctive shorter bill, a very spotty
back which contrasted strikingly against the pale belly, dark greenish/
yellow legs, and a VERY apparent white supercilium. In flight the
white rump is so vivid that it looks like someone just took a
paintbrush and slathered white paint over the rump and tail. Really
the bird looks like nothing else out there at the time. Everyone was
getting fantastic looks as we left.

We also were able to witness some extraordinary behavior of a hunting
Northern Harrier while we were attempting to track down the Wood
Sandpiper. We noticed a Harrier hovering very close to some shallow
water and small intermittent splashes were coming from underneath it.
It was in fact pinning a Green-Winged Teal underwater and only
allowing it up for very short breaths of air every few seconds. We
watched for several minutes as the teal began to tire, then suddenly
the Harrier dropped down, plunged it's talons into the water, spread
its wings to avoid getting them wet, and proceeded to hold the teal
underwater to drown it. After about 30 seconds the Harrier attempted
to drag the bird out, but amazingly the teal was still alive and dove
again. Again the Harrier hovered over the diving teal as it took
short breaths of air, and again it pounced on the teal's back and held
it under again while spreading its wings into the air. After about a
minute the teal had expired and the Harrier dragged it to the bank and
began to devour it. I for one had never witnessed behavior like this
and was truly amazed at the determination and ferocity of the Harrier.

Other birds to note from the day:

1 Sabine's Gull at a distance
2 Glaucous-winged Gulls
Northern Harriers
Peregrine Falcons
Common Snipe
Long and Short Billed Dowitchers (mostly long)
Green-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
American Coot
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs
1 Dunlin
Black-bellied Plover
Pectoral Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Marsh Wren
American Pipit

Good luck to anyone still trying for the Wood Sandpiper....getting
there as early as possible seems to be the best idea though we did
find the bird in the middle of the afternoon. I would also like to
acknowledge the generosity of the local birding community who
responded in fine form to my requests for a ride down to Eugene to
chase the sandpiper. You all have made a relatively foreign birder
feel truly welcome here. Thank you.

-Nathaniel Peters
ncpeters at u.washington.edu
Seattle, WA

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