Sandpiper of the Rocks

There was an over-wintering avian visitor from the far north spending its time on the rocks near the path way of Heron’s Head Park in the south eastern portion of San Francisco. I figured I better make way across the 6.2 miles of the city to see this sandpiper before it headed back up north.

Heron’s Head Park, named because it looks like a great blue heron’s head from the air, juts out into the San Francisco Bay just north of Hunter’s Point (the formal naval shipyard). The parks is a human made landscape that was once going to be an anchor point to a southern bay bridge that was never built. This area has been cleaned up by the Port of San Francisco and is now a 22 acre park that represents on of the few wetlands that still exists in the city and county of San Francisco.

So I figured I’d head east, across town, to see a rock sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis) before it really started to rain and before the bird relocated ahead of a December winter storm.

Like it’s name implies, a rock sandpiper, is found on rocks. And Heron’s Head Park provides many rocks for this sandpiper to forage and roost. Now I had to find the piper amongst the rock before the wind and rain made observation a struggle.

I head out on the path to the point noting the large numbers of double-crested cormorants flying from the north, joining a large raft of birds that was growing to the waters of the southwest.

As I headed out to the point, the surge was making whitewater on the southern side of the rock-levy. The first sandpipers I spotted was four least sandpipers on the southern side. This was a good sign because the the northern visitor was associating with least sandpipers. But the rock was nowhere to be seen.

I retraced my steps to the west and I spotted a spotted sandpiper bobbing on a rock to my right. This was a nice consolation.


I turned back to the east and out to the point for one last look for the rock sandpiper. That’s when I saw a larger peep slowly making its way over the rocks to the north. I didn’t need binoculars to identify this bird as I was able to stand right next to it. As Pete Dunne notes, “A tame bird that allows close approach. ”


The rock sandpiper in it’s desired habitat, rocks!

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