Bird watchers descend on Rhode Island for rare sighting

Reuters News

10/23/2012 2:43:34 PM - Reuters News

By Daniel Lovering

(Reuters) - Scores of bird watchers have descended on Rhode Island to glimpse a bird rarely seen on the U.S. mainland and that may have flown from as far away as Siberia.

The wood sandpiper, a migratory bird commonly found in Europe, Asia and North Africa, was first spotted 10 days ago in a marshy area in Jamestown, George Armistead, events coordinator for the American Birding Association, said on Tuesday.

The brown-and-white medium-size shore bird has been seen and recorded only a few times in the lower 48 states, he said, adding that it is seen almost annually on a small island in Alaska.

Most shore birds that turn up in the mid-Atlantic or East Coast region are believed to have bred in Siberia, Armistead said. The one in Jamestown very likely is a juvenile born this year and "just doesn't know its way around yet," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Philadelphia.

"You do get these birds that stray," he said. "This one probably strayed from someplace in Eastern Russia, would have cut across Canada and ended up here on the Northeast coast."

The animal has attracted scores of bird enthusiasts from New England and beyond in recent days.

Ed Hughes, a harbor master in nearby North Kingstown, said he has gone to see the bird and take photos three or four times. Traffic in the area was backed up for at least half a mile, he said, with cars with license plates from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and throughout New England.

One day he watched along with about 70 others, he said.

Armistead said he wouldn't be surprised if one or two birders had flown in from the West Coast to see the wood sandpiper.

"It's a pretty big deal," he said. "For a lot of people that haven't had the opportunity to travel, this might be their only chance to see this thing."

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Doina Chiacu)