Red-Necked Phalaropes

After I sent my picture of a Wilson’s Phalarope to Ruth to positively identify it, she showed me the pictures she’d gotten of a Red-Necked Phalarope at Ocean Shores. Needless to say, the next clear day I headed to Ocean Shores to add that bird to my collection.

I started by making a quick stop at the sewage pond to see what was there. I noticed a small little bird floating in the front pond that I didn’t recognize. As I watched it through the camera lens, I finally realized it was the bird that I had come to find:

Red-necked Phalarope

The Red-Necked Phalarope is only about half the size of the Wilson’s Phalarope, and this phalarope spent the entire time I was there floating on the pond picking food up instead of wading like the Wilson’s I’d noticed the week before.

Later I headed over to one of the ponds and marshes down the beach. If I’d known how many phalaropes there were going to be there, I certainly wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to get a good picture of the the Red-Necked Phalarope at the sewage pond.

However, knowing I had already gotten some good pictures of the phalarope just floating gave me the opportunity to try to get shots in a less common pose, like this one just taking-off,

Phalarope Taking Off

and the patience to wait for this particularly striking one to stop preening long enough that I could get a shot that also included its head.

Red-necked Phalarope

I’d been photographing the phalaropes for quite awhile when this a whole flock of birds suddenly swooped in—just as my compact card filled up— so I only managed to get one shot. At first I thought they were Bonaparte Gulls, but when I was studying my Audubon Guide, I realized they were actually male Red-necked Phalaropes.

Or, maybe not, my friend John emailed me stating that he thinks, judging from Sibley’s, that they look more like Bonaparte Gulls than male phalaropes. Since I’ve never seen a Red-necked Phalarope before Thursday, much less a male phalarope, there’s every possibility that my first guess was right and the second one was wrong. If they are Bonaparte Gulls, I wonder why there are no adults in full breeding plumage, like the flock I saw recently in Malheur. Still, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

What do you think?