August 21, 2014: After leaving Scarborough Marsh we drove east down the road to Pine Point where the Scarborough River empties into the Atlantic ocean. Now Cynthia was directing me, as I had never been to this location and she had. We found our way to the mouth of the river and parked in the parking lot. With a fishing wharf and a few restaurants around the first birds we saw were gulls. I loved this checkerboard pattern of the juvenile Great Black-backed Gull. This pattern helps me distinguish it from the similar dull gray juvenile Herring Gulls which we also saw. Notice the pale tip to the extreme end of the bill, another distinguishing characteristic. Below is a juvenile Herring Gull for comparison.
Note the all dark bill and the sooty appearance. Both gulls have pink legs.
This flock was mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated plovers!
There were at least 200 of them!
And then there was this…
In the midst of all the other sandpipers and plovers I saw a bird that looked different. It was larger than the other peeps and had a different color and posture. I was standing on the shore of the mudflats with a rapidly sinking sun and my time was running out. I could not even imagine what species of sandpiper this was and I did not have time to get out bird guides and compare shorebirds, So, I take a few photos and send a quick text to my eBird buddy and best birding friend in Tucson. I know I can count on him to help me and he does. I ask him to check the eBird records and see what other shorebirds are being seen down here at the Scarborough Marsh, for Pine Point is at the extreme eastern edge of the marsh. He quickly texts me back that there are White-rumped Sandpipers being seen! White-rumped Sandpipers would be a Life Bird for me! I call Cynthia over and ask her to photograph this bird, as her camera has a longer lens than mine.
Unfortunately the sunlight is behind the bird and in front of us! Still, we do our best as we try to figure this out. White-rumped Sandpipers are larger than Semipalmated Sandpipers. They have short dark legs and their wingtips project past their tails. You cannot see their white-rumps except when they are in flight. There are a few other distinguishing characteristics but they are not easily observed in this photograph. However, to me me this looks like the wing tips stick out just a tad farther than the tail does.
As we turned away from this mud channel to walk towards the wharf, we saw another birder with a scope. We though perhaps he would help as, as most birders would. As we drew nearer, I recognized the person, so I asked him for help. I showed him my photos but the lighting was poor and he could not see well enough to tell. However, he did tell us that there were at least 5 White-rumped sandpipers out there. So, I asked him if he could show us one in his scope so we could see the difference for sure. While I do not recall his exact words, he declined our request and blew us off. I was a bit surprised and taken aback, but we politely walked away and left him to his birding. However, I could not help but thinking how amazing it was that my friend, Chris Rohrer was willing to help me from 3000 miles away, while a birder who was present would not. I do not know if this man thought we were going to tag along and follow him for the rest of the evening or not. We were not going to do that. We just wanted some help. In all other cases when I have met birders in the field and have asked them for help they have always helped me. While I do not know this man well, I do know him, and I was surprised by his reaction. But he need not fear. I will never ask him for help again.
Cynthia and I walked up on the wharf and sat down to watch the Common Terns fishing and flying and feeding their chicks. The adults would perch on the piers and watch the water.
Then they would take flight…
When they did, the chicks would take up a pleading cry!
For some reason we only saw one getting fed by both parents no matter how many fish they caught! As we sat there the tide started to come in and we decided it was getting late and was time to leave. We walked back towards our car and were about to get in, when we noticed the peeps were all being pushed closer to shore by the incoming tide. Not wanting to risk missing the possible White-rumped Sandpipers, we got out of the car and headed back to the banks to see if we could find one in the hundreds of peeps. It was at this point we saw the birder again and, apparently he may have felt a bit bad about the way he treated us, so he offered us this tip: “The incoming tide will force the birds closer to shore and you should be able to pick out the White-rumped Sandpipers. They are in in there.” Then he left with his spotting scope thrown over his shoulder. Nothing like stating the obvious!
As the tide rolled in and the peeps crowed closer and closer to shore Cynthia and I searched and search for White-rumped Sandpipers. We tried to find a bird that looked different from the others, but to no avail. Finally, as the water squeezed the birds onto an ever narrower strip of land, the whole flock took flight and most flew off leaving just a few stragglers on the shore.
Once back in the car we drove the short distance across the street to Pine Point Beach and the open Atlantic. We were hoping we would see sanderlings or some other shore birds here, but all we found were foot prints, gulls, and a few remaining beach goers.
It grew dark as we drove home and even darker for Cynthia as she drove back to her cottage on the west side of the state. She must have gotten home well after 11 PM and her drive was all back roads, as there is no East-West highway in Maine. Still, we birded until the day was done and we had so much fun! I am so glad I was able to spend this amazing day birding with Cynthia! And when it was all over, I was quite surprised to realize that we saw the most species of birds right at Wharton Point five miles from my house! However, I would not have gotten a Life Bird or added to my Maine Life List if we had not gone to Scarborough Marsh and Pine Point! In the end we saw 35 species at Wharton Point; 24 species at Scarborough Marsh-Eastern Road; and 22 species at Scarborough Marsh-Pine Point! Thanks for a great day, Cynthia!
- Living in Brooklyn, Longing for Maine-Cynthia's blog