So, my instinct was right, it turned out yesterday's puzzling Calidrid was indeed a Baird's Sandpiper in molting/breeding plumage. (Better to call it a very worn transition from breeding plumage Baird's that has replaced a good number of breeding feathers with nonbreeding ones, and whose tertials appear to be very worn retained juvenile feathers. So probably a late first year bird that may or may not have bred, but probably flew to the breeding area - Kevin Karlson see his comment) When I put up my blog post this morning around 4:00 a.m., I had by then done some homework, looking at Baird Sandpiper images in different plumage from several sources including the Crossley Guide and the Shorebird Guide. Some photos indicated that the bird looked good for a breeding plumage Baird's Sandpiper but having never seen one, I was being cautious and did not want to arrive at a reckless conclusion.
My field notes from yesterday noted that for the short time I observed the bird it did not enter the water but fed on the shore. Typical of Baird's Sandpiper behavior but not a hard and fast rule as I was reminded of today by Angus Wilson who responded to my query with tips on what to look for. Today, when Isaac Grant and I came upon the bird, it immediately struck Isaac as a Baird's although he too admitted that he had never seen one in this plumage.
Further observation with Doug Futuyma, Steve Walter and confirmation from Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay and Holly Wilson who had distant views of the bird settled any doubts. My thanks to all who responded with congratulatory messages and advice. Baird's Sandpiper in this plumage is a rarity for our area and I am not even sure how many downstate records we have. Here are some additional photos I took today with better lighting conditions.
Tags: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, Shorebird, Jamaica Bay, Baird's Sandpiper