Monday, April 30, 2012

Purple Sandpiper and other sights in the Rossport Archipelago

We took advantage early ice-out and unusually calm waters to camp out among the very beautiful islands of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area this past weekend. Our ~35 km paddling route took us through the Rossport Archipelago. I'll post more photos and trip details later but for now I want share photos of the Purple Sandpiper our friend Christine spotted yesterday (April 29th) on a remote, exposed 70 m. long rocky islet (48.75584, -87.44037).

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Subsequently the four of us observed the shorebird resting and foraging in close proximity to about 20 pairs of nesting Herring Gulls.

 [click on images to enlarge]

This sighting was my first for the Thunder Bay District and my first spring encounter. We later learned that this was only the second occurrence from the District. The first was found on the even more remote Caribou Island on May 25, 1984.

The scarcity of the species in the Lake Superior basin is underscored by the paucity of records - only seven - from Minnesota, a jurisdiction with many more active birders. The most recent sighting, the state's first for any spring season, was found at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, NE of Duluth, on March 17 of this year (photo here).  The March and April dates of this year's Purple Sandpipers suggest that these two birds may have overwintered on Lake Superior, as they regularly do on the lower Great Lakes.


  1. That's an amazing record Michael! I wonder if this could have been a bird that overwintered here or at a nearby location- is that possible? I think your bird is still in basic plumage which could indicate that. Also, I think the few very rare spring records in Ontario usually come in late May...just a thought. Awesome!

  2. What a fantastic record, Michael! I echo Mike's thoughts about it possibly wintering on the big lake.

  3. @ Mike and Josh. Yes, it's a very reasonable to suppose that this and the March 17 MN individual overwintered nearby. Alan W. thought the same thing.