west end of Island Park Reservoir about half way between Icehouse and Sheridan Creeks.
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Shoreline. Bird was observed on small islands close to shore as well as on shore where some grass and other forbs were growing, not on bare mud.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Bird was observed for approximately 1.5 hours, first from about 1/4 mile away, later from as close as 20 yards with Nikon 10x binoculars and Swarovski 80mm scope with 20-60x eyepiece. Temp about 55 degrees with solid light cloud cover (bright overcast) making lighting conditions excellent.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
No, not at all
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, later the same day
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Shorebirds of North America, The Photographic Guide, Paulson 2005.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Very small sandy gray plover. Underparts white, upperparts solidly pale sandy gray/tan. Crown and nape washed with pale buff. Throat and rest of head white with solid black partial breast band, forehead bar (separating crown and face), and post-ocular "block" (much wider than a post-ocular stripe and roughly square in shape). Legs were dark. Bill was short, thin and entirely black.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Foraging along shoreline in sparse grass and forbs. The bird stood in one place in upright posture looking, then ran quickly with back horizontal to ground and head low, then stopped suddenly to pick at food items on surface. This behavior was similar to but differed from Killdeer and pluvialis plovers in that the bird ran faster and with back horizontal to ground and head held low.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I initially identified the bird from a long distance by the very pale whitish appearance and foraging behavior. My first thought was Sanderling but the running and stopping quickly convinced me it was a plover. As I watched I was able to see the black partial breast band and block behind eye so I suspected Snowy Plover. The block behind the eye actually confirmed the ID but I was not able to rule out a Piping Plover until we got close enough to confirm the dark legs and black bill. Only later upon consulting a field guide did I realize Piping does not have the black marking behind the eye.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
Piping and possibly Semipalmated Plovers are the only species that are similar. Semi is much darker above with orange bill base and yellowish or orange legs. Piping lacks black mark behind eye and also has orange bill base and legs.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I've only seen Snowy Plover on one occasion. Never seen Piping. I have some experience with Semipalmated in Idaho and NJ.