Buff-breasted Sandpipers – Athletic Fields

My next post was going to cover making sure the last of August and beginning of September to check your local athletic fields for American-Golden Plovers and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. But since I found some of each I thought I had better do a “special” post. The rest of the weekend I’ll cover later this week.

Saturday afternoon after my usually birding I stopped by St. Francis Soccer Fields (7702 S Arlington Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46237) to check for shorebirds. There are 16 fields stretching over a half mile located behind a locked fenced. I scanned from the small rise along the street.

Of course there was too much air shimmer from the sun but on a far field I thought I made out an American Golden-Plover and possible two Buff-breasted Sandpipers. But maybe they were Pectoral Sandpipers.

Sunday morning I was there at sunrise to beat the air shimmer and to have the sun to my back. And the plan seemed to work with even distant birds showing clearly in the scope.

St. Francis Soccer

St. Francis Soccer Fields at 7:30AM – it’s a half mile to the far side.

It didn’t take long scanning through the 350 Killdeer to find the American Golden-Plover. It was close to the road but flushed and still landed on a middle field.

AGPL

The day started well with the American Golden-Plover near the road.

AGPL (2)

It flushed a little later but still only to one of the middle fields.

Then the scan for the Buff-Breasted Sandpipers commenced. The far fields must have some undulations because the birds, including the Canada Geese, would disappear out of view and reappear. So I figured I might be in for a long morning.

After 45 minutes a possible Buff-breasted Sandpiper came into view on a FAR field. Then another. I watched them for a few minutes and from the Buff color, small size, not a distinctive breast, and their feeding habit was sure of the ID. But at that distance a photo was going to be poor. I called Mike since I knew he wanted to see them and to confirm the ID.

BBSA (1)

The difficulty in getting a photo at 600+ meters. At least you can see the general shape and color of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper right of the goal.

After an hour off and on seeing them he finally confirmed the ID. The problem was until the sun was high enough and they moved back into a better position the bird’s color and shape weren’t obvious.  Mike then proceeded to find a third one.

BBSA (3)

By seeing only half of the trash can you get an idea on the depth of the ground’s undulation. Buff-Breasted to the far right.

BBSA (6)

Two of the Buff-breasted feeding right of the goal.

BBSA (2)

BBSA (4) Buff-breasted Sandpipers

And this is as good as it gets. The blurry photo gives the general size, shape, and color of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It’s just right of the can.

I left at 9:45 when the ground had started to heat up and the air shimmer from the sun had made scoping the far fields difficult.

If you decide to try for the birds odds are you won’t get close views. My advice is to go in early morning and you’ll need a scope.

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3 Responses to Buff-breasted Sandpipers – Athletic Fields

  1. Martha Crafton says:

    I have just started following your blog. I find your narrative very useful. I am mostly a mediocre photographer and generally shut shorebirds while south for the winter. But, I am trying to expand my knowledge and get better at ID-ing. Thanks for your help.

    • BobC says:

      Learning to ID birds just takes time, glad I can help. And I’ll never be more than a mediocre photographer, looking at the bird comes first. Which can be a problem when people expect photos on a bird blog!

      Thanks for leaving the comment.

  2. Greg says:

    You have inspired me to start regularly checking my local soccer fields. I never thought of them as productive birding locations, but this time of year they totally are, and it doesn’t take long to see what’s there. Best bird so far has been a juvenile Horned Lark, but I will keep waiting for some high quality grasspipers like yours.

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