Solitary Sandpiper

Tringa solitaria

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 on 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.

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