On November 28, 2010, Rick Fridell located what could be classified as one of the most unlikely North American birds to ever show up in Utah. With bright orange legs and base of bill, the Purple Sandpiper Rick found at Sand Hollow Reservoir in Washington County is typically found on the Atlantic coast, and the Great Lake during the winter months--in the lower 48 states occasional vagrancy to the gulf coast occurs. See map below:
The sighting of this species so far from its regular wintering grounds and previous vagrancy patterns makes it a spectacular record. Of course, having a species like this show up in Utah led many Utah birders on a trek to the southwest corner of the state, to see a bird that very likely will never be recorded in the state again. I made the trip to the state park on the outskirts of Hurricane with Carl Ingwell on Friday, December 3rd. We arrived early in the afternoon and were treated to great views of the bird in the company of Rick Fridell, Ryan O'Donnell, and David Hanscom. I took to the beach for photos, but after the bird made a single pass it disappeared for the day, leaving me with only a handful of captures, including this one, which was the best of the bunch:
However, I was fortunate to be able to return on Saturday the 4th, with Jeff Bilsky and Robert Williams for a second encounter with the bird--this time feeding on the beach when we arrived. Amazingly we were the only birders present at the reservoir on what I figured would be the day most birders would be arriving to view the bird. I couldn't complain, as it allowed Robert and I to set up on the beach and take some nice photos of the bird as it passed us withing several feet allowing for some great photos:
After spending some time admiring the bird we left it to forage. The bird was seen again that afternoon, but has not been reported since--leaving me to wonder if it fell prey to one of the raptors scouring the shorelines for food... or if it made its way out of Utah, heading for waters that will put it on track for a safe migration north this spring.
Labels: rare birds, shorebirds, washington county