Least and Long-toed Sandpipers in spring

Adult Least Sandpiper, Sandy Pt., New Haven, CT, May 2013.

Adult/ 2nd cal-yr Least Sandpiper, Sandy Pt., New Haven, CT, May 2013.

I’ve never seen a Long-toed Stint in the US or in the UK during my frenetic birding in my twentysomethings. I have come somewhat close though.

I started my twitching career in 1983, a few months after a confiding juvenile Long-toed Stint turned up in the UK in September 1982…a first for Britain at the time, but since demoted to the second after a review of a spring bird in Cornwall in the 1970s that was id. as a Least, but belatedly accepted as a Long-toed, making that the first record. It has remained a blocker ever since. I arrived in Salinas, California in the fall of 1988 with Geoff Kingery and David Sibley and a juv. Long-toed that had been present at Salinas had unfortunately departed prior to our arrival.

I do look hard for Long-toed Stints, it is a bird I fantasize about finding in the east, but with no records east of the Mississippi, it is a rather needle-in-a-haystack venture. I do look at Least Sandpipers though and this one caught my eye – not that it stood out as anything but a Least – but it showed a pale brown base to the bill vaguely reminiscent of Long-toed and also a vague split supercilium. Leasts typically show an all dark bill and I don’t remember seeing many that I checked, showing this pale spot. Anyway, just thought I’d post these shots of this nice individual.

Least Sandpiper, Sandy Point, New Haven, CT, May 2013. Typical adult Least Sandpiper, except this has a noticeable paler brown area at base of bill - a feature often associated with Long-toed Stint.

Adult/ 2nd cal-yr Least Sandpiper, Sandy Point, New Haven, CT, May 2013. Typical adult Least Sandpiper, except this has a noticeable paler brown area at base of bill – a feature often associated with Long-toed Stint.

Here’s a scan of my notebook from a visit to China from a decade ago when we saw a few alternate-plumaged Long-toeds – typically “leggy” birds with broad, rusty-fringed tertials, short bill and a structure that was more Pectoral Sandpiper-like. It will be a sharp birder that picks out a mid-Atlantic Long-toed.

Sketch of Long-toed Stint, China, May 1994

Sketch of Long-toed Stint, China, May 1994

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