Thursday, October 11, 2012

American Piptits at Sleeping Bear Dunes

 SLBD continued...

I left you hanging last time with an exciting find on the beach at Platte Bay in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I'd been hanging out at the beach, relaxing and reading a bit, when I saw a sanderling wandering down the shore. Then I noticed these little brown birds (in the birding world unknown brown songbirds are often refered to as LBB's) chasing insects on the sand. I got my binoculars on them and knew right away it was not a bird I was familiar with. I hadn't been planning on shooting birds and didn't have a tripod with me, but I put my long lens on anyway and followed the birds down the beach.

I didn't know it then but I looked them up back at camp and discovered they were American piptits. A bird for my life list!

A pair of American piptits.

I squatted down in the sand to help steady the camera. I love this shot with the wave breaking in the background.

Worm's-eye view.

The sanderling wandered by again so I took a few photos. Beautiful little bird in its winter plumage, I'd only seen them before on beaches in Florida.

Sanderling alone on the beach.

There were five or six piptits along this lonely stretch of beach, chasing insects.

A bit blurry, but I love watching birds run.

They may have also been pulling tiny crustaceans out of the seaweed washed up on shore.

The wind was pretty fierce, and I thought the little guys might blow away. (I just noticed that this one appears to be eating a gnat!)

Down the hatch!

I didn't know anything about this bird so I did a little research. The American piptit is the most common of the three piptits we have in the states. They breed in far northern Canada, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies. There are also small breeding areas in the western U.S. mountains and in Maine and New Hampshire and they winter in the southern U.S. Turns out they are a rare find at Sleeping Bear Dunes, at least according to their bird guide--they are migrants in this area, so are seen only occasionally in the spring and fall. 

This piptit has its own gnat. I wonder how many they have to eat to get a meal's worth?

I noticed later, while searching for more birds along the bay with my binoculars, that there was a large flock of LBB's towards Empire Bluffs. No way to know from that distance if they were piptits, and I didn't have the energy to walk that far down the shore. I was satisfied with the few I'd seen, feeling pretty good having notched a new bird after being in the park only a few hours, and having gotten some nice images to share.

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