Back to Doran State Park

Jeff and Debbie hadn’t arrived from Fresno when we first drove down to Bodega Bay, but we discovered they wanted to visit while there.  Leslie and I are always up to a visit to Bodega Bay when we’re in Santa Rosa so we headed back to Doran Beach State Park.  

I wondered if the Snowy Plover we had seen two days before would still be there.  Instead, we were greeted by a flock of what appeared to be Dunlin in non-breeding plumage.

They certainly all looked the same as they flew up and down the beach when people got too close.

I’ll have to admit, though, that I didn’t immediately identify them as Dunlin

because I’m used to seeing them in breeding colors when their striking black chest makes them easy to identify.

As it soon became clear, the flock was made up of several different species, but especially Sanderlings.

I’ll have to admit that I’ve always thought a Dunlin was bigger than a Sanderling, but this shot —and a little reading — revealed otherwise.

Although I didn’t see a single Snowy Plover on our trip down to the point,  I finally spotted one just outside the larger flock of Dunlin and Sanderling on our return trip.  

I wonder if the Snowy Plovers will join the other shorebirds to migrate or if they will actually nest nearby.  They certainly seemed to separate themselves from the flock that we hadn’t seen on our visit a few days ago.  

It’s amazing how much I don’t know about these birds that I’ve been photographing for several years now.   

Transformation

On first appearance, there doesn’t seem to be anything striking about a Willet other than the fact that it’s almost twice as tall as the plovers and sandpipers it often migrates with.  

It’s certainly not as spectacular as the nearly same-sized Marbled Godwit, but when it opens its wings a remarkable transformation takes place.

For me, the hardest part of photographing Willets is resisting the temptation to encourage them to fly away in hopes of getting a better shot.  

I Prefer Cooperation

Returning from Bodega Head, I noticed a small flock of White Pelicans fishing in a small pool along the shore.  Unlike Brown Pelicans who dive for food, White Pelicans fish in shallower water and work together to herd fish into the center of the flock.

More often than not, the result seems to be that most of the pelicans end up catching a fish. 

After all, pelicans have been around a long, long time and it seems unlikely they would have survived that long if socialistic strategies like this didn’t benefit the whole flock.

While I was photographing the pelicans I heard a ruckus behind them and looked up to see several gulls chasing a gull that had found a small crab.

Considering how small the crab was, I was amazed that this went on for several minutes

Apparently competition, rather than cooperation, is predominant in gull society.  As a survival technique for a species it must be as effective as cooperation since there are even more gulls than pelicans — at least here in the Pacific Northwest — but I’ll have to admit that it somehow seems less appealing to me. 

More from Doran

I was so busy getting close-ups of the Marbled Godwits that I almost overlooked this Whimbrel.

As I later discovered, there was actually two Whimbrels

that were feeding quite aways apart.

About a half-mile further down the beach we saw this Willet with a shell that looked like a clam, 

but it seemed unable to crack the puzzle of how to eat it and gave up.

These Surf Scoters, on the other hand,  have huge beaks they use to eat shellfish.

I’ll have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Surf Scoters surfing. I’ve always seen them feeding on the piers in the Puget Sound or floating casually far off from shore.  I finally know how they must have gotten their name.

When we walked as far down the beach as we were going, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the ledge above us.  

I wonder if he saw more than I did.