Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Bald Knob, Allegheny County, PA
UPDATED with much better pictures taken on the morning of August 13.
This incredible bird was discovered in the evening of the 12th by Ross Gallardy at the so-called "main pond" on
Bald Knob Road. This beautiful juvenile not only marks the first county record for Allegheny, but it likely
is the first documented record for Buff-breasted Sandpiper anywhere in southwestern PA. The southernmost record for
this sandpiper in western PA is from Mercer County. It also has been recorded in Crawford and Erie. This being
a truly historical record, Ross and I were sure to document it thoroughly via photograph.
As has been reported recently, this little pond, which has become so famous in western Pennsylvania birding lore,
is in the direct line of a new toll road being constructed around the southern end of Pittsburgh, and so the pond's days
are probably numbered. The current story is that the turnpike contractors are using the water in the
pond as part of their construction project, and so they are slowly draining it. But since they are using the water as
part of the construction effort, instead of simply draining the pond for future development, the pond may not be disappearing
permanently just yet. The planned extent of the drainage is not yet known - it may be totally dry in a month, or it
may survive this season and beyond. Ironically, the lower water level as a result of this disturbance has actually
created the best shorebird habitat at the pond in years, and it took less than a week for the first benefit to be reaped
- this amazing first county record.
A warning to any birder who wishes to bird the pond this fall - it is advised that you stay on Bald Knob Road and use
your telescope. This could be an excellent fall for shorebirds at Bald Knob with the lower water levels and more
extensive mudflats, so stay tuned for more news.