Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Rhode Island

November 17, 2021:  Today featured a 75 minute drive to the Galilee Bird Sanctuary adjacent to the Block Island ferry terminal at Point Judith, Rhode Island to search for the rare Sharp-tailed Sandpiper discovered there on 11/14. This was bit of an adventure. There are no trails or boardwalks here. The sanctuary consists entirely of saltmarsh traversed by numerous rivulets and channels, some several feet wide with a current and mud that can be two feet deep or more in places. High waterproof boots or waders are a must.

It took some time just to figure out where to park and where best to enter the marshland. Just as I was parking across Sand Hill Cove Road in the extensive (and empty) lot adjacent to the Roger Wheeler State Beach, a car pulled up next to mine. The man who got out had binoculars and a camera and turned out to be Russ Smiley who recognized me from a fall search for a migratory Connecticut Warbler years ago in Manchester, CT. Such is the birding hobby!

The two of us thus set out together to look for a way into the marsh when from across the street a nice woman named Mel waved us over from a home bordering it and kindly offered us access through her yard. Now all we had to do was figure out how to traverse some 300 yards of watery marsh and muck to reach the area where the sandpiper had been reported. Some of the channels could be forded only by balancing our way across makeshift bridges comprised of just a few dead branches.

Galilee Bird Sanctuary marshSearching for this particular bird was literally like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. During the course of two hours a spread-out group of six, including us, had formed when finally one of the others pointed at some furtive movement in the marsh grass near his particular spot.  Everyone converged and, lo and behold, there at last was the barely visible sandpiper. It remained off and on in partial view skulking in the grass until finally it emerged to briefly wade in one of the channels, providing our group of six with an unobstructed view for two gratifying minutes before flying off to drop down again into the marsh grass some twenty yards away leaving six happy faces and a case of patience having been justly rewarded.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

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