After having several decent looks at the stunning Black-tailed Gull in Ashtabula, the four of us continued on to Conneaut Harbor in hopes of finding another rare gull- the Black-headed Gull. This slightly larger cousin of the Bonaparte’s Gull sports a red bill and legs, along with some black on the underwing tips; all subtle features that can make it tricky to pick out from a flock of Bonies. Anyways, we weren’t able to find the Black-headed Gull but this miss was alleviated by the great looks we got at a Purple Sandpiper that was foraging right along the beach.
The entire time we were there, the Purple Sandpiper foraged in a small pile of debris collected around some driftwood. Seemingly oblivious to our presence, we were able to watch it from mere feet away, easily my best views of this species. They are known to be some of the most approachable shorebirds so this behavior was not unique to this individual.
I have typically seen Purple Sandpipers along the Atlantic coast, typically on stone jetties such as the one at Barnegat Light in New Jersey. They spend the winter along the coast from Newfoundland to Virginia after their breeding season in the high arctic, often forming loose flocks as they forage along the rocks for mollusk and crustaceans.
We stopped by Sunset Point at Presque Isle State Park to try to find the reported Purple Sandpiper there but struck out. Since then it’s been reported several times on the rocks at breakwater 57.