Today I happened across Mark Stevenson and Molly Pollock at the Pinal/Pima County line. They had just discovered an unusual sandpiper in a flooded field near Pinal Air Park. Mark asked if I had ever seen a buff-breasted sandpiper (I have, in TN and SC, but it has been a while). A quick look through Mark's scope sent me running back to the car for The Shorebird Guide. We enjoyed great looks and were able to see the plain head and buffy breast, white wing linings, yellow legs, long wings and dove-like appearance. It had a few small spots along the side of the breast, near the wing. We considered the hybrids mentioned in the book (p 314-5) but everything pointed to it being a classic Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The narrow buff/white edges to the feathers on the back make me think it was a juvenile, but hopefully someone will get some good pix.
I watched the bird from 9-11:30am. It flushed several times, once flying south into Pima County before returning to its favorite spot - where we first saw it. This spot was in the field just east of the three flooded fields. It had a few small puddles about 75 yards south of the north edge. The bird preferred the drier land, and perched on the berms frequently. Once I saw it raise one wing and flash its white wing linings - cool!
As far as I know this is the 3rd or 4th state record. I think this is the first record this far south in Arizona, so neither Pinal nor Pima County has had a record.
The fields are south and east of the corner of Trico and Pinal Air Park (see map below). To get to the spot turn south on Trico Road from Pinal Air Park Rd (Exit 232, I-10). In 20 yards turn left (east) and follow the farm road a hundred yards or so.
I believe this is private property so please be respectful and use good judgment if you go to look for this bird.
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