Early winter arrivals and an uncommon sandpiper have brought more people down to the South Bay to see them. The reported sightings are of curlew sandpiper, a rarity in the area, as well as reports of semipalmated sandpipers and red knots. Curlew sandpipers are very rare throughout the United States being, mostly, a Siberian resident. It is more common along the east coast than the west coast. So, one can only imagine the excitement that many birders had when one was spotted and photographed at the mud flats near the Bayshore bikeway.
Semipalmated plovers are usually winter only residents. They are about the size of a snowy plover and look like miniature killdeer with one breast band. Red knots also are a winter resident, mostly transitory, stopping to refuel during their annual migration from the artic trundra to Tierra del Fuego.
The best time to see these birds is during low tides and earlier in the day. At this time, the birds are most likely to be foraging in the mud flats. Bring binoculars and a camera with a good, long lens for best viewing and photographs.
Birders should take note of the National Wildlife Refuge’s off limits signs while viewing these birds. Most of these birds have been seen near the 7th Avenue area of the bike path. However, it is unlawful to go past any of the barriers or signs and/or to the edge of the mud flats. There is one area that is poorly marked in that area and it is not clear where the boundary begins and ends, especially near the bicycle bridge. However, due to the increase of people coming to the area to see the rare birds and early arrivals, Fish and Wildlife officials have been reminding people to keep out of these areas.
The Bayshore bike path and South Bay National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to observe many birds passing through on their annual migrations, including rare and unusual ones.