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Buff-breasted Sandpiper: !!!New to Manhattan!!! 21 September 2022

22 September 2022 = Birds, Life, Libertas

Bird Notes: We cancelled the Thursday, 22 September bird walk due to the forecast of rain during the previous two days (Tue-Wed). Please always check the SCHEDULE page of our web site if the weather looks "iffy." On the bright side, the next several days look clear and cool - and the accompanying northwest winds will bring many migrants south to our area.

We made a new friend this week, a first time (ever) emigre' to Manhattan (NY County), a rare Buff-breasted Sandpiper that touched down on Randall's Island in northern Manhattan on Wednesday, 21 September. See Deborah's photos throughout this Newsletter; or this Video (click) of the bird at Randall's by David Barrett who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert. Later in this Newsletter we trace the history of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the tri-state area from 1841 to the present.

Deborah Allen discusses why this individual is an ADULT (and not first fall) bird, and likely a Female - see her photo below: The plumage is worn rather than fresh including the crown, back, and wing coverts. In general juvenile birds in fall are in crisp, fresh plumage showing distinct dark spots on the crown and fresh, pale fringes on the back and wing coverts. The worn rather than fresh plumage indicates an adult bird.

The outer primaries are mottled below. This mottling is stronger in adult birds than in juveniles. Because the mottling isn't very distinct, the bird is more likely to be an adult female rather than an adult male.

The underparts are pale buff with a bright white lower belly. At this time of year a juvenile (young) bird would be more buffy below than this bird.

We send several Historical Notes on the history of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper in our region: (a) 1841 from Brooklyn about how approachable ("gentle") is this species. Indeed throughout Thursday (21 Sept 2022), many birders/photographers watched as the bird fed in the short grass often as close as 8-10 meters away. Several notes from 1880-1930 (b/c/d) discuss how the adult and hatch-year Buff-breasted Sandpipers are annually seen on migration in fall throughout the region (most often in short grass meadows near the ocean beaches on Long Island and Brooklyn), but have never been common (similar to Baird's Sandpiper in our area); most often seen in September with specimens from early August (Queens 1963) through 15 October (LI); (e) very rarely it can turn up away from the coast such as at Gowanus Bay in Brooklyn (1841 and the late 1880s). Buff-breasted Sandpipers prefer the dry plains and cut over meadow frequented by Upland Sandpipers and Golden Plovers, and rarely coastal mud-flats; (f) high counts: on sod (grass) farms on eastern Long Island, 40 in late August 1973, and 70 on 9 September 1977. "Reports of this species have increased 1980-2000, but groups of more than one or two individuals are still very rare." It has not reliably been seen in spring in our area though there are reports (20 May 1941).

Buff-breasted Sandpiper adult female on Randall's Island (Manhattan) 21 Sept. 2022 Deborah Allen

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Central Park (Harlem Meer) 16 September 2022 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for mid-September 2022

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found: (Click) here

1. Thursday, 22 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond. $10.


2. Friday, 23 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. Deborah Allen leads all Friday walks.

3.!!! Saturday, 24 September 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4.!!! Sunday, 25 September at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4. Monday, 26 Sept. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10.

!!!: if you do the 7:30am walk, you can come on the 9:30am for free (two for one).


Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions or help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.

Lincoln's Sparrow Central Park (the Ramble) 18 September 2022 Deborah Allen

Below: Lincoln's Sparrow Central Park (the Ramble) 18 September 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights): The weather changed in a dramatic way starting Wednesday night (14 Sept.) into Thursday (15 Sept) as strong northwest winds predominated. We had a big movement of birds over Manhattan (500,000+), most of whom did not stop. Nevertheless we managed 14 warbler species. In subsequent days as the winds became much lighter (less than 10mph at ground level), many more birds landed in the park to spend the day. On Friday, Deborah and company found a Sora rail and a Northern Pintail (female). On Saturday (17 Sept) we had an amazing of the top 25 autumn bird walks we have done with 21 warbler species including up to 10 Cape May Warblers (that have been around in number since early Sept. - a good autumn for them). We finally had the first good counts of Northern Parula warbler (15-20), and on subsequent days had high counts too (finally!). However, the really great find(s) were two Philadelphia Vireos on the same branch, displaying - Bob was using sound and it brought them both in - thank You Matthieu Benoit (PhD). Indeed if you look at the number of warbler species we found (21) and the high numbers of individuals: our counts so far exceed what any individual or group finds...and that is because we use sound. Add to these numbers the crazy numbers of Swainson's Thrushes (20-25) and Wood Thrushes (up to 10) on Saturday that would otherwise be hidden in the canopy...sound works and it works very very well. On Sunday and Monday we had fewer individuals and not as many species, but still had amazing walks: birds came in close and people were able to put their binoculars down and just use their eyes. Life is good!

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 15 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 16 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 17 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 18 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 19 September: Click Here

(above) Blue-grey Gnatcatcher in Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on 20 September 2022 Deborah Allen

(below) Nashville Warbler Central Park (the Ramble) on 18 September 2022 Deborah Allen


Buff-breasted Sandpiper [1843 to 2000]

Tringa rufescens. Buff-breasted Sandpiper [1843]. With us, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper is not a very common bird, though its occurrence is by no means unusual. Almost every season a few are observed along the southern shores of Long Island, and during autumn we occasionally find it in our markets stripped of its feathers, and exposed for sale along with Pectoral Sandpiper, from which it is easily distinguished by the shortness of the bill, which is more slender, as well as much shorter than that of T. pectoralis [Pectoral Sandpiper].

In the month of August, 1841, Mr. Brasher met with a party of five, on the shores of Gowanus Bay [Brooklyn], which number is larger than I have seen in one group. He informs me that they appeared very gentle, allowing him to advance within shooting distance without seeming to notice his presence. At first the discharge of his gun, which procured him three, the surviving two made a short flight over the water, returning in a few minutes to the shore, at a short distance from where they had previously taken wing, which gave him an opportunity of securing the whole number.

When flying from you they appear not unlike the Pectoral Sandpiper, to which their upper plumage has some resemblance.

Excerpt: “The Birds of Long Island”

J.P. Giraud, Jr. (1843)

The Occurrence of Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis in the New England States [1897]. There are several instances of the capture of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Connecticut and Massachusetts which do not appear to have been recorded. This Sandpiper, although common in certain sections in the West, is not very often met with along the North Atlantic seaboard. The latest occurrence of this species in Connecticut appears to have been a specimen taken by myself on September 30, 1895. A solitary individual was found on the in nepiac marshes, which are situated near New Haven, Conn. A very stormy condition of the weather had existed for two days, and it was not strange that a species of the Limicolae was blown inland by the prevailing easterly winds. On a portion of the meadows an unfamiliar looking Sandpiper was observed feeding in the grass. It appeared to be a bird of the present species, and seemed restless and wary, but it was shot before it could fly off. The bird was picked up, and found to be a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), in the young plumage. No other birds of the Snipe family appeared to be in the vicinity. This record seems to be the second or third instance of the capture of this species in Connecticut, at least in recent years. One of the previous instances may not have been recorded; a young bird was shot in the latter part of August, 1889, by Mr. Edward L. Munson, of New Haven, in almost exactly the same locality as that in which my specimen was taken. In Massachusetts there have been a small number of these Sandpipers killed. Mr. George W. Mackey, of Nantucket, Mass., mentions the capture of a few specimens on that island. Dr. Louis B. Bishop, of New Haven, informs me that he shot a young female Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Monomoy Island, Cape Cod, Mass., on September 19, 1895, and that another specimen was killed there by a market gunner on the same day. Several more instances were reported some years ago from Cape Cod by the late Mr. J. C. Cahoon, of Taunton, Mass. It has been taken several times on Long Island, N.Y., but the latest record in that locality seems to be August 28, 1888. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is often found associating with the Pectoral Sandpiper (Tringa maculata) and it is to be looked for in flocks of the latter in the autumnal migrations. There are two instances of its capture in the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Canada, where one individual was found on two occasions with a flock of Pectoral Sandpipers. The first instance was in September, 1888, the second in early September, 1890. As most of the above records of the occurrence of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the East are spread over a number of years, the species must be considered as rather rare along the coast of the New England States. C. C. TROWBRIDGE, New York City. (1897)

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (adult female) at Randall's Island (Manhattan) 21 Sept 2022 by Jackie Emery PhD

Tryngites subruficollis. BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (1888). Mr. Giraud considered this species on Long Island as, "Not a very common bird, though its occurrence is by no means unusual." My first specimen of this Sandpiper was not secured until August 28, of this year (1888), when one was presented to me by Mr. Frank M. Lawrence of Mastic, Suffolk Co. He subsequently wrote: "It was shot by a lad who sent it to me to identify, and as it was a strange bird to me I forwarded it to you. He shot it on the meadows on the north side of the bay. It was alone." The only other specimen of this species that has come trader my personal observation was one shot by Capt. W. N. Lane, in midsummer some twelve years since. It was presented to Mr. George Lawrence Nicholas and is now, I believe, in the Princeton College collection. Other late records for Long Island have been made by Mr. N. T. Lawrence and Mr. De L. Berier. ----- The Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) on Long Island, N.Y. [1906]. Owing to the infrequent occurrence of this species on the Atlantic coast, I wish to record a young male in my collection taken at Rockaway Beach [Brooklyn] on 11 September 1906. J. A. WEBER, New York City. ----- Limosa hemastica [Hudsonian Godwit] and Tryngites subruficollis [Buff-breasted Sandpiper]. Two specimens of the Hudsonian Godwit and one Buff-breasted Sandpiper were collected by Mr. Robt. L. Peavey of Brooklyn, the former (male and female) on August 30, 1903, and the latter Sept. 11, 1904, all at Rockaway Beach [Brooklyn]. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was flying along the outer beach. WILLIAM C. BRAISLIN, M. D.

The Whimbrel, Ruff, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Eskimo Curlew on Long Island, N.Y. [1915]. Through the courtesy of Mr. John H. Hendrickson of Jamaica, N.Y., I am able to record the occurrence on Long Island of these four Shorebirds. The specimens of the two European species were brought in the flesh to the American Museum and are now preserved in its mounted collection of local birds.

The Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus = European species), which proved on dissection to be a male, was shot by Mr. S. M. Van Allen, of Jamaica, Long Island, at Gilgo Inlet, Great South Bay, south of Amityville, on Sept. 4, 1912. It was in the company of two Hudsonian Curlews [= North American Whimbrel]. This appears to be the first record of the Whimbrel for the United States. According to the A. O. U. Check-List, it is of occasional occurrence in Greenland and has been taken once in Nova Scotia.

The Ruff (Machetes pugnax), an immature male judging by size and plumage, was collected by Mr. Hendrickson near Freeport on September 26, 1914. It was alone and was attracted to the decoys by imitations of the calls of Yellowlegs and Robin snipe. There are numerous North American records for this species, including two previous Long Island captures.

Mr. Hendrickson states that during the past half-dozen years he has collected three Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subrujicollis) near Freeport, and could have secured another one the past season.

Regarding the Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis) Mr. Hendrickson writes: "When I was on the meadows two years ago last September I saw two birds which I believe were Esquimo Curlews. As we were aboard the boat getting it ready to leave,these birds flew within about twenty-five yards of us, and I had a good opportunity to observe them closely. They were not the Hudsonian Curlew, commonly called "Jacks"; they were much smaller and less wary than the latter. I know the Esquimo Curlew, having shot several specimens a number of years ago, and at the time I told my friend that was what I believed these birds were."

W. DE W. MILLER, American Museum of Natural History, New York City. (1915)


Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) and Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). The status of these two rare shorebirds on Long Island seems not to have changed appreciably in the last twenty-five or thirty years. There was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the collection of the late De L. Berier from Gowanus Bay [Brooklyn] presumably in the late eighties [1880s!], though it bears no further data. We learn that the 1888 specimen recorded by Dutcher as from Mastic [Long Island] was collected by Dr. Rolfe Floyd. Messers W. T. and J. L. Helmuth inform us that two have recently been taken near Easthampton, viz. on September 7, 1910, and September 4 (Sagaponacack Beach, Bridgehampton), 1916. In a letter recently received, Mr. W. F. Hendrickson writes that his brother (Mr. J. H. Hendrickson) reports "five specimens of the Buff-breast within the past few years." Probably Hudsonian Godwit stragglers occur each year - we know of one (an adult taken at Mastic August 21, 1915), and another (immature) taken at the same place October 6, 1916.

John T. Nichols, Robert C. Murphy and Ludlow Griscom (1916).


Notes from Eastern Long Island. Tryngites subruficollis. Buff-breasted Sandpiper [1924]. A single bird of this beautiful species was collected at Mecox Bay on August 22, 1923. Inflight it suggested a Dove, and was easily recognized in life, after a few moments' observation through field-glasses. I have twice before taken this species on Long Island, and have twice seen it without harming it. The dates are: September 7, 1911 at Easthampton; September 4, 1916 at Bridgehampton; September 8, 1916 at Montauk; August 28, 1920 at Montauk, and the present record, as given above.

William Tod Helmuth, 3rd, New York City. -----

Tryngites subruficollis. BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER [1934]. One seen at Bridgehampton [Long Island], September 27, 1930 and on October 11, three associated with Golden Plovers one of these was collected. Single birds were also seen on August 7 and October 15, 1933, at Montauk Point.

William Tod Helmuth, 3rd, 667 Madison Ave., New York City.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper [1941]. This little shorebird is apparently a rare fall transient along the entire eastern seaboard, and to date I have not had the fortune to see the species in life. It is said to be extremely ploverine in its habits, and though occasionally occurring on coastal mud-flats it prefers the dry plains and cut over meadow frequented by the Upland and Golden Plovers.

Griscom (1923) wrote: “In Giraud’s day this western species was believed to occur almost every season on Long Island in the fall. It is now known as a rare or very rare fall transient, and the published records show that about twenty specimens have been shot.” Its status remains the same, yet naturally with the passing of years the accumulation of records grows and it seems superfluous to list them.

There is but one spring record, a bird well-seen at Lido Beach, Long Island, 20 May 1941 (Harrower). The large majority of Long Island records are from the south shore and are concentrated in September. The earliest is from Montauk on 7 August 1933 (Helmuth), and the latest from Mecox Bay on 15 October 1933 (Helmuth). The few Staten Island records are all in September. Around Newark Bay, New Jersey, the late Charles Urner listed this species as “a very rare migrant but recorded each fall.” Here too the large majority of records are concentrated in September with extremes 30 August 1934 (Urner) and 9 October 1932 (Edwards. I find but one report elsewhere in our region that deserves consideration, northern Westchester County, 12 July 1940 (Breslau).

Alan D. Cruickshank (1941)


Buff-breasted Sandpiper [1998]. Recorded only on its fall migration, except for one sighting (28 May 1977) in Oswego County in upstate N.Y. In recent years sod farms in upstate NY and Long Island have been the most productive place to see them. Maxima: Two flocks of more than 40 on plowed fields near Mecox Bay (Suffolk Co., LI) during late August 1973 and 70 near Sagaponack (LI) on 9 September 1977 represent the largest concentrations recorded. Reports of this species have increased during the last 20 years, but groups of more than one or two individuals are still very rare. Extreme Dates: a bird killed by a plane on 3 August 1963 at JFK airport (Queens) is the earliest record. There are several reliable reports 10-15 October with the 15th of October being the latest verified date. Rare before late August and after early October. Remarks: The species’ spring migration is exclusively along the Central Flyway, primarily west of the Mississippi River, and east of the Rockies, and it is virtually unknown in NY state during this season.

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Reservoir, Central Park looking southeast from the northwest corner

Semi-palmated Sandpiper Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) 10 August 2017

#BirdWalksCentralParkSeptember2022 #BirdWalksCentralParkAutumn2022 #BuffBreastedSandpiper

1 Comment

Some very welcome good news from resilient Mother Nature! Thanks for sharing this.

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