Friday, 23 December 2016

Year End Surprise! Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - a very nice christmas present for everyone!

It's been an exceptional year for American vagrants, Franklin's Gulls and American Wigeon earlier this year were phenomenon! Adding any more more American vagrant into the mix would be incredible! On Tuesday, Yuen texted me about a Buff-breasted Sandpiper he found at San Tin during fish pond survey, I nearly jumped out of my office chair. This would be the 2nd Hong Kong record, with the first one being seen very very briefly at Mai Po around two years ago. Naturally, everyone wanted to go see this mega rarity. I was however unavailable until Thursday morning, luckily it stayed the whole day on Wednesday, which looked hopeful for me to visit the bird on Thursday morning before work.

My father and I started early and drove directly to the fish pond at San Tin, where a group of birders were already watching the vagrant. We soon locked our bins onto the very distinctive little wader, no bigger then the Little Ringed Plovers next to it. 

"Twitchers" along the fishpond early morning

Buff-breasted Sandpiper & Little Ringed Plover - much smaller then I expected...

The bird "performed" very well despite being a bit far, showing us all it's diagnostic features, including the distinctive white underwing that this species famously uses for displaying.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - showing off to a crowd of twitchers it's famous armpit

Usual habitats for this species are pastures and grassland, a little bit different from drained fishponds...but I suppose you cannot be too picky when you're lost in a country that's on the other side of the world! This species are long distance travellers, naturally occurring and breeds in the arctic tundra in northern Canada, migrating through central USA and South America all the way down to Argentina! This one had clearly headed the wrong direction to begin with and followed the wrong flock, giving me a suspicion that this bird may be dyslexic (dyslexics often can't tell left from right)!

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - it certainly had came a long way...

A few Temmink's Stints were also present at the same pond, also Avocets and a lot of Little Egrets. The Sandpiper looked slightly intimidated by these strange neighbours.

Temmink's Stint - one of the many there

Pied Avocet

Little Egrets

We were there for less then an hour before heading back to work. On the way out I noticed a strange silhouette on the wire, I stopped the car and looked through my bins and saw that it was a Wryneck! They are regular winter visitors and migrants, although I haven't had much luck with them these two years, I am glad to have finally caught up with this one! An absolutely perfect way to start the day!

Eurasian Wryneck - perfect start for the day!


  1. A good "twitch" is great way to start the day !

    1. Not even a cup of coffee can wake you up more then a great twitch!