Solitary Sandpiper

Tringa solitaria
Range Map

For the longest time, early in my bird-chasing career, the Solitary Sandpiper was a nemesis bird. Had I been a rabid birder, I might have met the bird sooner. But my aversion to following the crowd prevented me from being in the first wave of birders to seek a meeting after learning of its presence through the local grapevine. Instead, I waited for a respectable time before attempting the chase. That usually meant the crowd had left, but so had the bird.

The game changed in August 2017 during a visit to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada. I was sitting at the edge of a shallow pond, looking for an opportunity to capture an image of the waterfowl, passerines, or shorebirds I could see foraging that were too far for satisfying images. Unexpectedly, a Solitary Sandpiper landed not 30 feet in front of me and vocalized repeatedly with loud whistling calls. It was perfect! I put my camera to work, and the bird was a nemesis no longer.

Solitary Sandpipers spend winters spread over an extensive region of the New World that includes South and Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the Gulf Coast of south Texas. I met this species again in the spring of 2021 in south Texas, where they were probably winter visitors.

Today’s science recognises two subspecies of Solitary Sandpiper:

  • T. s. solitaria breeds in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains and spends winters in central Mexico south to Argentina.
  • T. s. cinnamomea breeds in Alaska and western Canada and winters in Central America south to Argentina.

My expedition to south Texas in 2021 provided my second opportunity to meet this species at Resaca de la Palma State Park in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I rode my bike out to Hunter’s Lane at the far side of the park to enjoy the birds that were attracted to the only standing water in the reserve. Though I wasn’t expecting it, a Solitary Sandpiper joined a Lesser Yellowlegs I’d been photographing, and I captured the Solitary bird as a bonus.

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