Tres Amigos, Redux

As I mentioned long, long ago, in a previous post (it seems) not only do you find Black-necked Stilts where you find American Avocets, but you are also likely to find White-faced Ibis.  

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes the first time I saw a White-faced Ibis at Malheur.  I would have sworn it was a tropical bird that had wandered off course, not a bird you can regularly find in Southern Oregon and Utah.

When I first saw one, it was that long, curved beak that stood out.  Over time, though, it was the breeding plumage that fascinated, 

White-faced Ibis

and frustrated, me as a photographer.   At a distance or in poor light the plumage appears to be a dark, muddy brown, but seen in just the right light and right distance it is absolutely beautiful,

White-faced Ibis

and the closer you get

White-faced Ibis

the more beautiful and distinctive it appears.

close-up of White-faced Ibis

Color me Confused

I got a bit of a shock yesterday after posting my entry on Black-necked Stilts at Bear River.  When I received my entry by email it was accompanied by a warning from Google that it contained a malicious link to a Wikipedia article.

While looking up information about Black-necked Stilts on Google’s Bard I copied a part of a line that said that stilts are“colonial nesters” with a link to Wikipedia where that information could be found.  

In the end, I didn’t quote the line directly but paraphrased it and took out the link to Wikipedia — at least I thought I did.  I deleted the blue highlighted word and typed in my own words.  

Apparently, the link stayed though it doesn’t appear anywhere on the page I entered in WordPress.  I’m not sure how to get rid of a link that doesn’t even appear on the page.  In an abundance of caution, I went back and deleted the whole section — but I have no way of knowing if I actually managed to delete the link.

This whole incident raises so many questions. First of all, why would Google’s Bard include a link to a site that Google itself says is “suspect”? I know they warn you that you need to check the “facts” they use, but that’s really not the same as embedding a link to a site that they consider “dangerous,” or at least suspicious.

Second, does Wikipedia really contain links to sites that may mislead you or trick you into downloading dangerous software?  If so, why the heck aren’t they policing their links?

Finally, if you delete a linked word, how can you be sure that the accompanying link has actually been deleted?  If the linking word has been deleted, how can a reader click on that link to go to that site?  

Black-necked Stilts at Bear River

After years of looking for American Avocets, I expect to see Black-necked Stilts wherever we find Avocets.  Black-necked Stilts and Avocets are similar in many ways, including their diets. Both species are omnivores, eating small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Both feed on the Brine Shrimp found in the Great Salt Lake.

I’ll admit, though, I was still surprised to find a Black-necked Stilt nest less than a hundred yards away from the Avocet nest we had just seen.

Black-necked Stilt on nest

This is the first time I can remember ever seeing a Black-necked Stilt nest (but that might be because my memory isn’t quite as good as it used to be because the post-generated link clearly shows a Black-necked Stilt nest.

Although we saw large flocks of stilts on the way to the refuge, most of the stilts on the sanctuary were either in pairs or were feeding alone.

Black-necked Stilt

Strangely, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts seem to get along quite well when feeding together, sometimes quite close together.  Black-necked Stilts, on the other hand, seem less tolerant of fellow stilts when feeding.  They tend to be territorial, particularly during breeding season, and these two seemed more combative than most.

Stilts fighting

Neither bird seemed to be injured, and it gave me a chance to capture the loser as it flew a safe distance away.

Black-necked Stilt landing

We managed to get closer to these birds than we ever have before, 

and what really stood out to me were those bright reddish-orange legs, particularly how long they appeared compared to the bird’s overall size.  When I asked Bard about those legs it came up with:

The black-necked stilt is a shorebird with long, thin legs that are proportionally longer than those of any other bird. The legs of a black-necked stilt are about 1.5 times the length of its body, and they can reach up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) in length. The legs are pink or reddish in color, and they help the stilt to wade in shallow water and reach for prey.

The stilt’s long legs are an adaptation to its habitat. Black-necked stilts live in wetlands, where they feed on small insects, crustaceans, and other aquatic animals. The long legs allow the stilt to stand in shallow water without sinking, and they also help the stilt to reach prey that is hidden in the mud.

The long legs of the black-necked stilt are also a disadvantage in some ways. The stilt is vulnerable to predators that can reach it from above, and the long legs make it difficult for the stilt to take off and land. However, the stilt’s long legs are an essential part of its survival, and they allow the stilt to live in a variety of wetland habitats.

Here are some other interesting facts about the black-necked stilt’s legs:

The stilt’s legs are made up of hollow bones, which helps to reduce their weight.

The stilt’s legs have a network of blood vessels that help to keep them warm.

The stilt’s legs are covered in scales, which help to protect them from the elements.

The black-necked stilt is a fascinating bird with some amazing adaptations. Its long, thin legs are a key part of its survival, and they help the stilt to live in a variety of wetland habitats.

Most importantly, though, they make the stilt look like a Tai Chi master or ballet dancer, complementing their delicate beauty.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

We had made plans to visit the Colorado Websters in May to see Zoe’s graduation ceremony, and I didn’t plan on driving that far without visiting other places, too.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t plan to do anything much because I had a doctor’s appointment right after graduation that had already been rescheduled once four months earlier.  So, we planned an extra day of travel time to Colorado in order to spend a day visiting Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge where I hoped to see the American Avocets that I didn’t see on our recent trip through California.

It didn’t take long before we saw them, either, as we found a pair on the road to the auto tour.

American Avocets Feeding and Grooming

For a while it looked like they might be the only ones we would see because the roads were flooding.  We came up to a sign warning not to cross when there was water over the road, and there was definitely water over the road.  I thought our RAV 4 was high enough that we could safely cross, but, with recent images from the news showing cars swept away by floodwaters, I decided it wasn’t worth the chance of being stuck and missing Zoe’s graduation.  

Luckily, on our way back we stopped and talked to some other birders who had stopped at the refuge office.  They were told they shouldn’t have any trouble crossing with their Subaru.  Since our RAV 4 had at least as much ground clearance as their Subaru, I decided to chance it and made it fairly easily.

I’m glad we went on because we saw American Avocets throughout the refuge.

American Avocet

We also saw American Avocets that seemed to be floating and foraging, something I’d only seen a few times before. 

Avocet Swimming

I wondered if those Avocets were feeding in deep water by choice or were forced to feed there because there weren’t many areas that weren’t flooded. 

Even more worrisome were the Avocet nests that seemed in immediate danger of being flooded.

Avocet Nesting in Deep Water

We have observed Avocets nests both on dry fields and on tussocks in wetlands in prior years, but we’ve never seen one where the water surrounding the nest was this deep. Was the water that deep when the Avocets build the nest, or had the water risen afterward and they just refused to abandon the nest?