Tim and I had a bit of a role reversal today when he had to leave to go to work and I kept birding. I went up to Jean Kloch to check a couple large gull flocks as a couple of hours at Tiscornia had produced exactly one (very distant) southbound red-throated loon. Of course when I arrived there I picked up 5 distant contrastingly patterned shorebirds landing back on Tiscornia.
The light wasn't the best and eventually they flew north a couple hundred yards, only to return after half an hour or so with the appearance of some distant dogs and landed back in front of me for the 15 minutes of sunlight this morning:
I think the lead bird (and maybe the trailer) in the first picture may be first year birds as their plumage was a little browner that the others and they had no trace of chestnut on the breast. I can almost get the sense of some paler edges to the coverts, but these birds also seemed pretty heavily worn (maybe more so than the others) so this may not be correct.
It's hard to get a decent composition when multiple birds are involved (if you've ever tried to photograph two toddlers you know this well) but I like the symmetry of this one:
Here's the lighting when I first had the birds. This again is one of the birds that may be first year.
The birds stayed together fairly well; they certainly didn't spread all over the place like sanderlings do. I think it was 3 males and 2 females.
Since I'd been hard at work on my all-important Newaygo County list camping with the family for the last few days I haven't really been paying all that much attention to the winds, but I was surprised to get this western bird today. Willets (with the occasional accompanying marbled godwit) are usually the product of strong north and west winds (usually in front of a storm), but avocets don't seem to be tied to similar weather. I also don't understand why birds with similar range (long-billed curlew and upland sandpiper) don't show up on the beach more often given that we get most of the curlew's relatives (godwits and whimbrel) and a lot of the birds I associate with uplands in Michigan (golden plovers and buff-breasted sandpiper) at least occasionally on the beach.