North American Peep Sweep
Peeps are the smallest of our Calidris sandpipers or, as Mike has said here on 10,000 Birds:
‘Peeps’ is the birding term used to describe several species of sandpiper of the genus Calidris that are near impossible to tell apart. These small shorebirds all have short legs and similar plumage and frequent mud flats in search of the same food. Traditionally, the five species of peeps in North America are the Baird’s, Least, Semipalmated, Western, and White-rumped Sandpipers.
I am a big fan of peeps as my regular attendance at peep shows confims. Who doesn’t like the rich juvenile plumage of a Least Sandpiper, the pugnacious attitude of the White-rumped Sandpiper, the big, honking bills of a female Western Sandpiper? Horrible human beings like Trump supporters and pedophiles, that’s who!
On Sunday morning I made my way to another peep show, this one at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge’s East Pond. Seth Ausubel and I cleaned up on peeps there with hordes of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, quite a few White-rumped Sandpipers, and a single Western Sandpiper. We were unable to connect with the putative Semipalmated X Western Sandpiper hybrid but we were pretty happy with seeing four of our five regular peep species, to say nothing of a Hudsonian Godwit.
Juvenile Least Sandpipers are amazing.
White-rumped Sandpipers aren’t too tough to pick out but they are even easier when they are seen in direct comparison to Semipalmated Sandpipers.
Even when Western Sandpipers refuse to come close they are really easy to find when they are juvenile females.
Having seen four out our five peep species and having exhausted the shorebirding opportunities on the East Pond we made the decision to track down the Baird’s Sandpiper that had been reported the day before hanging out in a mud puddle at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field. We got to the puddle and were shocked and dismayed to see only a Least Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Fortunately, assistance was at hand in the knowledge of a local Brooklyn birder who directed us to a second puddle across from the community garden where we quickly spotted our hoped for grasspiper.
Baird’s Sandpiper might be the classiest peep. Especially juveniles like this bird.
Peep sweep done we headed for home. Now I’d really like a peep sweep with some Siberian vagrants added. What’s the most peep species you’ve ever had in a day?