Saturday, July 18, 2015

Brig 7/18--Western Sandpiper

Mid-July and shorebirds are starting their southward migration. Unfortunately, for arcane research reasons, the waters are being kept high at Brig, leaving little available mud flats for shorebirds to feed. There are plenty of mud flats around, so says the head biologist; you just can't see them. Implication: Tough noogies.

Anyway, 3 trips around the dikes, two of them on an All Things Birds field trip, yielded a few interesting species and one new one for the year: Western Sandpiper. It was amazing to me, with so many excellent birders all peering through excellent optics, how damn difficult it was to decide whether this peep or that peep was actually a Western Sandpiper. Did it have chevrons or dots? Was there any rufous in the wings? Was it chesty and big-headed? All these field marks are pretty subjective. Yet, we did manage to pick out two in widely separated mud flats. I'm fairly confident in most of my i.d.'s, but when it comes to Western, unless I'm standing on top of the bird, I'll defer to someone else when it comes to calling one.

Another interesting debate regarded a juvie nigh-heron--black or yellow-crowned. My first reaction was yellow. The mnemonic for these two look-a-likes is: Yellow=black bill, Black=yellow bill. This one looked black to me, despite some lightness at the base. But again, it was surprising how much back and forth there was. And I wouldn't stake anything over a quarter on my i.d. Some would say this is what makes birding fun. Others, like me, would question if they really know anything about birds and then go on to expand the circles of what they really know until they spiraled down into the abyss of epistemological depression.

Anyway here's what I do know:  I listed 63 species for my 24 miles of travel around the dikes:
Canada Goose  40
Mute Swan  19
Wood Duck  1
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  13
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  40
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1     East pool, south dike.
Glossy Ibis  20
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  9
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  1     Heard
American Oystercatcher  4
Semipalmated Plover  10
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Willet  1
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Whimbrel  10
Least Sandpiper  2
Semipalmated Sandpiper  50
Western Sandpiper  2
Short-billed Dowitcher  20
Laughing Gull  200
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  15
Least Tern  1
Gull-billed Tern  2
Caspian Tern  1
Forster's Tern  10
Black Skimmer  15
Mourning Dove  1     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     Heard
Blue Jay  2     Heard
crow sp.  4
Purple Martin  20
Tree Swallow  25
Barn Swallow  15
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  5     Heard
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  10
European Starling  100
Common Yellowthroat  5
Eastern Towhee  2     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  3
Seaside Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  3     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Parking lot
Blue Grosbeak  1     North dike
Red-winged Blackbird  150
Common Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Headquarters
Orchard Oriole  1
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  10

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