On Brooklyn’s rocky southwestern coast… say what? This outwash plain should be sand all the way to the Continental Shelf, but there are places where we have piled up the boulders. The rip-rap along Shore Road Greenway, from Owl’s Head Park down under the Verrazano Narrows and beyond, for instance, is fine habitat in winter for Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima). A lot of common names of animals are descriptive, more than a few are confusing: these sandpipers are only slightly purple (during the winter only) and will rarely be found on the sand, or mudflats. In winter, they are found almost exclusively on wave-sloushed rocks. Arctic breeders like many shorebirds, they don’t travel nearly as far south as many other shorebird species (some to Patagonia); indeed, they have the northernmost winter range of any shorebird species. This one was pecking away at gastropods and crustaceans — nothing I can see, but then I’m no Purple Sandpiper.And when I say “wave-sloushed,” I mean it. The rocks pile upwards, but the birds are found down near the water, amidst the seaweed and the food. Waves are constantly replenishing the mini-ecology of the seaweedy rocks.
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This work by Matthew Wills is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.