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Little Stint: hints on finding

Sorry for the multiple posts today, but there was, happily, lots going on. I would also add that I had yet another Plumbeous Vireo about a mile to the east of Greenwood Cemetery later in the afternoon. Certainly a good number of birds around today, and every patch of lerpy eucalyptus I visited had plenty to look at.

As posted earlier today, I did see "the" Little Stint this morning just after 9AM on its favorite island in the SW corner of a salt works impoundment, just to the west of the end of 10th in Imperial Beach. I had seen an alternate bird–presumably the same–elsewhere at the salt works WAAAY back on 4 July, so presumably the same bird is indeed now back for its third winter. But none of us had been able to spot it in the interim. Hopefully, like the past two years, Oct and Nov will be good months to see it at this very island. BUT the bird is not consistent, and in the past it has best been seen closer to mid-morning (or later) than it is early in the morning, even though the lighting is much better earlier. In fact, when I saw it today between 9 and 9:15 AM, as the tide was getting fairly high on the Bay, the heat distortion was rapidly getting worse and worse, making it more and more difficult to make out the finer details. Tide may not be all that important, and in fact high tide just means that there are more shorebirds roosting on that island (including lots of Black-bellied Plovers and Red Knots), which can make finding the stint more difficult, as the other birds can block your view. In the past couple years, I seem to remember that after 8AM up to 11 AM could be good–heat distortion permitting–and sometimes in the late afternoon worked as well but not as reliable. But some days the bird just isn't there during that favored window.

Thank goodness when the bird started out today, it was slightly closer to me than the mid-point "elbow" on that island, but after a while it moved farther away and became marginal at best to identify with the "deteriorating" conditions. At about 9:15 it flew to the east, to the middle and eastern sections of the same impoundment, where much, much too far away to ID, but I knew which bird it was and saw that it went out of its way twice to chase Western Sandpipers, something the bird did as well last year. So, if you see a peep chasing the other peep, take a closer look! The bird is in basic plumage, and it differed from the 15 nearby Westerns today by being as small as the smallest Western, having a shorter, straight bill, and having (faintish) dusky blotches on each side of the breast (containing very faint dusky streaking), with a pale area up the middle of the breast, these dusky areas being a bit more distinct than on the Westerns, and a fair number of the wing coverts had faint pale edges. Too far to discern a split supercilium, and certainly much too far to make out lack of toe webbing!

Good luck!!!

–Paul Lehman, San Diego
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports