Salt Life Pipers

Just a quick note before we get started. I intentionally let my birthday pass without fanfare last month, but I was planning to make special note of an accomplishment that did occur – As my Dad would quip, must not have been that important or you wouldn’t have forgotten ha. As a quick self-pat on the back, January was the start of my 16th year blogging here at Intrigued. 15 years of observations, wildlife encounters, ramblings and whatnot. Been a blast so far and all the credit goes to you, my wonderful readers, and our staff that keep this little project going. Hippity Hip Hooray! Now staff, let’s get back to work.

Apparently my home state decided to welcome me back with a bit of a warm spell. Admittedly, it was a bit brutal the first week, but mid 40’s for most of this week (possibly in 50’s Sunday), in the Midwest, in early February…I’ll take it. Best of all I’ve been able to train outside and catch back up from the annual lazy January. A bit shocked I’m already up to 9 mile outings, but there’s a long runway to this year’s goals. Already signed up for a midyear 50K which already has the distinction of sending my sorry ass to the hospital (link here and here) and as you probably expected, another attempt at the 100K in the fall (link here). What can I say, I don’t deal very well with failure. There will probably be a few races scattered in here and there, but the training will be designed around these larger events. Today’s featured feathered friend is also fond of running albeit more of a sprinter specialist (you can view larger versions by hitting the image links).

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

Last post I brought you a ubiquitous resident of Texas (and many of the other southwestern states). A full bodied, dark feathered bird with quite a sassy mouth. Similar to the Great-Tailed Grackle, the Sanderling can be found in Texas. You will not find them at inland Walmarts as these cute birds all have Salt Life plastered on the back of their Jeeps. Tops off, Maui Jims on, cooler in the back, sandal to pedal with the wind whipping through their white/grey toned nonbreeding plumage.

Hit the jump to see a few shots I took of them driving their Jeeps on the beach.

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

Okay, I might have exaggerated a bit on their surfing lifestyle. They may not actually have Jeeps, but they do motor up and down the Texas beaches. A majority of my travels to the coastlines are in the winter months. I can drag a lawn chair out to Ruger’s dock diving training pool, slap an umbrella in a drink and let the rays do their thing during the Midwestern warm months – it’s the cold months that get Linda and I to the surf. As a result, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Sanderling in its breeding plumage which is a much deeper brown/rufous mottle on top/collar while maintaining the snowy white breast through the undertail.

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

Unfortunately, that breeding plumage means it starts looking a lot like the coloring of the other 2 million shorebird species that cause birders to pull their hair out trying to nail down an ID. Nonbreeding months…not so hard identifying these Lings. Jet black sandpiper bill (same proportion to head), equally black feet and eye, a white edged grey toned back feathering and the said white undercoating (collar recedes most of the way back). If unsure, the best static tell is the blackish smudge on the shoulder.

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

If you want a more dynamic clue, their behavior will pretty much give them away. Watch for the small whitish birds downing Pixie Stix behind the dunes and then tearing out across the beach to chase the waves and probe for any morsels left behind. Waves come back, they sprint back up the beach, refuel on Pixie if the sugar high is wearing off and right back at it. You might not notice it unless you happen to be photographing them, but they also kick their feet out to the left and right like their speedskating across the sand. Cracks me up every time I look at those shots.

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

Probably the best thing about them is they are generally super quiet. Sure, they may squeak a few times when their sandals get a little wet, but a far cry from those ear-splitting Grackles. They also couldn’t care less about us sunseekers. Maybe take a wider arch to avoid people walking in their path or a very short flight to put a little distance from an inquisitive toddler – hey you Gulls, maybe something you can learn from!!

Sanderling found at Port Aransas Beach Jetty in January 2022

Just for a quick background, this series of shots was taken at the Port Aransas, TX Beach access. Probably noticed the lack of a sand in the scene which is actually what caught my attention – this specimen was hanging out on the jetty at the far end of the beach. I have countless shots of these birds running along the brown sand and liked the chance to finally add a few more colors into the scene – turned out to my favorite series to date of this darling Sandpiper.

Hope you enjoyed today’s feature. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll find a way to bring you shots of the breeding plumage – going to be tough to get one to hang out at Ruger’s pool for any length of time ha!

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