A Tale of Two Sandpipers

On October 23, the same day I saw the Bay-breasted Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler grazing in the grass near Toro Point, I saw three peeps on the cement slab the molds for the breakwater 'rocks' stand on.  I was standing on the slab watching the warblers in the grasses around it and when they flew away, I turned to walk off and saw the peeps.  My first thought was plover, but that changed in a millisecond when I got the bins up and registered a whole bird.  They were sandpipers.  I thought how weird it was that sandpipers were standing in the shallow rain water pools on a parking area. I realize that many 'shore' birds are found in fields, but being a Californian and a sailor, I don't often see them like that.  Well, there is the Spotted Sandpiper who lives here at the marina and often strolls the lawns, listening and picking as if he were a thrush. I've also seen Killdeer in Arkansas and a few peeps in Australia that were in flooded fields close to the beach--but I'm used to seeing peeps on the beach--where they belong.
These peeps had yellow legs. Ah, that would make ID easy, there are only a few with yellow legs.  I thought I would get a few shots, then move around the leg of one of the molds and get a better look and better shots.  I slowly lifted my camera and got a few shots but they took off with a call (which I couldn't define now) and headed toward Limon Bay.
When I got back aboard, I pulled out my books and learned that Pectoral Sandpipers looked like big Least Sandpipers. Oh good, a lifer!  Even if I only saw them for a few seconds, I saw them!  Except.... the illustrations of the Pectoral Sandpipers had a two-toned bill. These appeared to be all dark. Still, these were big birds on longish legs, they were simply too big to be Leasts.  I have seen lots of Leasts and these weren't Leasts. The words of a few of my cyber-space mentors came to mind, something like, "Size isn't a good indicator in the field."  I looked at the lousy shots of the birds.  They were fuzzy and the angles of the birds weren't good. They were fairly close when I saw them and I don't know why the shots aren't good. Well, yes, I do know why they're not  good; it's because I really needed them to be good.
The Pectoral is described to be upright all the time, and these weren't. They weren't slouched like some peeps, but they weren't exactly upright, and there was the bill.  But, they were too big and tall!  I saw them at the same time as the warblers and they were not warbler size, my first impression was plover...they had to be Pectorals.  In the end, I didn't list them.

Today, I was doing laundry and while the washer spun, I thought I'd wander and bird. I hadn't even gotten to the fork to the loop when I saw the marina Spotted Sandpiper in the road ahead.  Wait, that's not him! That's really little.  A Least Sandpiper.  I instantly knew what it was even though it was on a flooded road and not a beach. It was tiny and delicate.  I also instantly knew that what I had seen before were Pectorals.  It wandered around me, searching the flooded road for morsels of some kind. Sometimes it came as close as five feet of me.  It wasn't at all skittish and I got really good photos and views. I had to leave and transfer the wash to the drier and it was still hunting.
Least Sandpipers Below
Back aboard, I went over the field guides again and went online again.  I did find a few images of Pectorals with bills that appeared uniformly dark, but most showed two-toned. The bill on the Least was really dark, really black, and it wasn't that dark on the Oct. birds. If the birds hadn't flown off and I had been able to see them better, would I have seen a subtle two-tone to the bills? I wasn't able to find detailed information about the bills on Pectorals; specifically if they might show uniformity in some phases or cases.
Above and below, Least Sandpipers.
I am certain that the birds I saw in October were Pectorals, but I can't get that from my photos and the photos aren't good enough to use even if I could find measurements that distinguish Least from Pectorals.  One of the photos does show the clear line between the breast and belly that is often mentioned in the description of Pectorals, but is that enough?  Leasts can also show a line. I also think the knees and feet of the Oct. birds look big and clumsy next to the Least Sandpiper.
When I saw the Least today, I decided I could add Pectoral to my list, and yet, it still isn't there.

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