Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sayonara September

I didn't have a ton of luck last month, from missing easy shorebirds, unsuccessful chases, and only 50% of my pelagic attempts actually getting offshore.  BUT, it's a new month with new possibilities.  Three golden plovers flew by Tiscornia in the am, though their ID didn't jump out at me at first.  I'd spent a couple hours and then was in the process of leaving to change out a shredded tire on the boat trailer and noticed Tim heading up the beach as I finished a check of the sheltered passerine spots.

We were most of the way to Klock when we started catching up to this bird.
It's a juvenile Western Sandpiper, likely the same one he had 2 days ago on a day I couldn't get out.  It's superficially similar to a Semipalmated but has a longer more tapered and drooped bill, some rufous in the scapulars (though semis can have that), as well as dark anchor markings in the lower scapulars.  The so-called anchors are the dark centers to the lower scapulars that bleed out laterally proximal to the pale edge of the feathers.  Juvenile White-rumped can definitely show this much rufous in the scapulars, but would have longer wings and at this distance a pale reddish base to the lower mandible.  Dunlin is another bird commonly confused with Western Sand, it will have an even longer more drooped bill generally, as well as being bigger bodied in comparison with the Sanderlings.  Last year we had an adult Western Sandpiper transitioning to winter plumage, this bird is marked as a juvenile by having small pale edged wing coverts and scaps.
Westerns are longer-legged than Semi's which means they lean forward more when they feed.  Tim noted that they tend to extend their necks forward as well; it was this behavior that led him to suspect Western on the peep he first saw literally a mile away on Klock from Tiscornia on Sunday.
The bird seemed to prefer looking for the brine flies (?) (midges?) that were washed up at wave's edge, though would follow a group of sanderlings as well that would sometimes forage all the way to the grass practically.  It made a pretty close pass when it flew back out to water's edge at one point, a pic I'm fairly proud of.
No time for auto-focus, you have to just slam it into focus manually.  Admittedly I probably got fairly lucky, but you have to get into Cave Swallow form somehow.

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