I read Walter Ellison's comments and analysis of Jeff's gorgeous
shorebird photos with great interest. Interestingly, my initial
reaction to the first photo was that it was a juvenile - and beautifully
plumaged - Semipalmated Sandpiper. However, the crisp markings and the
contrast between head and mantle made me nervous it might be a Baird's,
especially since the angle made it difficult to assess the primary
projection which usually is so obvious on a Baird's.
I would add to Walter's comments that the bill shape (which is why I was
drawn to Semipalmated) is telling. Comparison with the other photos
shows the bill on the Semi definitely to be shorter and thicker. But
most of us would also be tempted to say the bill was not exactly stubby
or tubular or some of the other words often used to describe the bill
shape of Semipalmated Sandpiper. A reminder that bill shape can and
does vary in the small sandpipers enough to cause confusion - and to
remind us caution is in order when identifying these guys. I wonder how
many were tempted to call the first bird a Western?