Subject: sharp-tail migration
Date: Sep 30 16:10:05 1994
From: Dennis Paulson - dpaulson at

Since I'm now committed to this exchange, I'll add this in response to Bob
O'Brien's posting. I have little doubt that the hordes of Sharp-tailed
Sandpipers that move into Alaska do so on their way to the South Pacific or
Australia, rather than on their wy to someplace like South America.
Probably this is merely because feeding conditions are good in AK (Yukon
delta?), and from the standpoint of a far-flying sandpiper, it's not much
out of the way. From my own experience this summer, feeding conditions must
be much better for shorebirds in AK than on the Chukotka Peninsula in
Russia. These birds hit Alaska, stay for a little while, and then move on
across the Pacific Ocean at some unknown longitude. Small numbers of them
keep going south in the New World, but keep peeling off out into the ocean.
Pacific Golden-Plovers surely do the same thing, as do Wandering Tattlers
and Ruddy Turnstones from Alaska (and Siberia?). Sharp-tails certainly
decrease as you go south on the American Pacific coast, as Bob wrote, and I
think this is the reason.

Buff-breasted and Baird's, as Bob implied, and also American
Golden-Plovers, Stilt Sandpipers and others, are heading generally on a
southeasterly course, as they migrate to South America, and it would be
expected that more of them show up in the NW than in California. Look at
the record for Semipalmated Sandpiper if you want an even better example of

One interesting thing about Siberian stints is that they occur at (1) Iona
Island and thereabouts, and (2) on the coasts of OR and northern CA. My
guess as to why they aren't recorded from WA also rests on the
"sampling-bias" hypothesis. The WA coast is far from our urban centers, and
it is extremely undersampled, even at the height of migration. A whole lot
of the early OR reports of rare stints are probably not valid, by the way,
although there *are* a few definite records of Long-toed, Rufous-necked and
Little. I don't know why we can't find these species in WA. There's a lot
of habitat in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, perhaps more estuarine habitat
than at any locality in BC or OR, a lot of places for the Lone Vagrant to
hide, and a lot of Western Sandpipers among which to hide. I think the way
to find rare stints would be to check large Western Sandpiper roosts
(wherever you could get good close looks) at Grays Harbor in the fall, but
I've done it a lot of times without finding any.

As for Great Knot, there are sight reports from Boundary Bay in late spring
and the WA coast in fall that may be valid. I wish all shorebird seekers
could carry cameras....

Dennis Paulson