On finding Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American-Golden Plovers away from Shorebirding Sites

The best places to find Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American-Golden Plovers away from the usual shorebirding sites is as the literature states on short grass fields, airport runways, golf courses, etc. The problem with golf courses is that people golf them so the birds don’t hang around long. And the problem with grass airport runways is lack of access.

I find, as the literature states, that the best place to find these species away from shorebirding sites is sod farms. The key thing about sod farms is that they have very short grass and are well irrigated. When you come to a sod farm the first thing you should notice is that there are a lot of Killdeer, Horned Larks, and European Starlings. If you have this combination you should have a good chance to find Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American-Golden Plovers. I have also noticed if you don’t have the combo of Killdeer, larks, and starlings, your chances diminish. So if you don’t live anywhere near a sod farm, and there have been a lot of sod farms close since the recession started, you need to look for another alternative.

Last Sunday, the 8th, there still weren’t many migrant species passing through my area so I decided to switch gears and go looking for plovers and sandpipers at the local athletic fields. The key is not in the athletic fields themselves but well irrigated athletic fields near the country. My experience is that if the fields aren’t near the country they don’t draw birds as well. So I went to the local athletic fields and first noticed a lot of Killdeer on the dry playing fields. And then I noticed Horned Larks which I haven’t been seeing for the last month or so. There were also a lot of European Starlings flying about. As stated earlier from past experience I know having those 3 species is key for finding Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American-Golden Plovers. While scanning the slightly greener, practice soccer field I noticed three American-Golden Plovers fly in and land. Something then flushed all the birds and they flew over a wind fence to the main baseball field.

Walking a hundred yards or so down a path let me scope the field. And on the main baseball field, which is well irrigated, there were 15 American-Golden Plovers. But after searching for 45 minutes no Buff-breasted Sandpipers were found. Darn. I also checked out the main football field but I don’t if it is the bleachers or the painting on the field but for whatever reason there was nothing but a few Killdeer. So if you’re searching for Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American-Golden Plovers this time of year, the key is to check local athletic fields that are well irrigated and near the country.

Franklin HS Athletic Fields
Franklin HS Athletic Fields

Note the contrast between the well irrigated baseball field and the rest of the grass.


Update 9/15. The American-Golden Plovers were there on the 12th and 15th. Still no Buff-breasted Sandpipers and time has pretty well run out for this year.


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