Upland Sandpiper — A Rare Bird In Southern Arizona

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a detailed view.

As a wildlife photographer, I’ll happily photograph anything containing DNA. I get real pleasure from photographing even common species. That said, I confess that my heart beats a bit faster when I have an opportunity to photograph something that is unusual or even rare.

I drove along a dirt farm road early one morning a couple of weeks ago, accompanied by my friend, Ned Harris. I had the wheel and was watching the left-hand side of the road. Ned, sitting next to me, was looking to his right. Suddenly, Ned asked me to stop the car and to back up. He’d seen something, some sort of shore bird, at roadside.

I put the vehicle into reverse and we backed up about 20 meters. Sure enough, there was a chunky, beige and white bird standing on a low berm adjacent to a very large cultivated field. It certainly didn’t look like anything I had ever seen or photographed.

Ned used a phone app to attempt to identify the bird and, within minutes we knew that we’d seen and photographed an Upland Sandpiper.

This bird is an inhabitant of grassy fields. Its summer range includes the United States’ northern plains and open areas extending eastward across the northern United States to eastern coastal regions. In migration, it passes through all of the southern United States east of a north-south line that roughly parallels the western edges of Texas and Oklahoma. Within its range the species is considered to be diminishing in number, uncommon, and threatened.

It is almost never seen in Arizona. The bird that we photographed was several hundred miles outside of the boundaries of its species’ typical range.

Ned and I learned subsequently that, over a period spanning several decades, there have been only four recorded sightings of this bird, including our sighting,, in the area where we photographed it. As it turns out, the Upland Sandpiper is an exceptionally rare bird in southern Arizona.

Photographing it was a question of perseverance and being at the right place at the right time. I have spent thousands of hours in the field during the last decade and on only a couple of occasions have I photographed a representative of a species outside of its usual habitat. This marks one of those occasions.

Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1000, f5.6 @ 1/2500, +1/3 stop exposure compensation.

2 Replies to “Upland Sandpiper — A Rare Bird In Southern Arizona”

  1. Very nice! Great find! And Great image!

  2. Janet says:

    That is absolutely amazing! You are so dedicated & so patient in your photography. That picture was certainly one in 1 million! We enjoyed reading your posts every day. Congratulations πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.