So Many Birds

I’ve been going to shorebird migrations for several years now and each one still seems as magical as the first one. However, since they only happen for a short period each year, I struggle to identify many of the birds we see.  

I needed to consult my bird guide to be sure that these were Western Sandpipers, not Least Sandpipers, much less Sanderlings in breed plumage.

I think this is a Long-Billed Dowitcher,

but I wouldn’t be shocked if a real bird expert told me it was really a Short-Billed Dowitcher.

I took a lot of shots of this Greater Yellowlegs (I think) in the distance because it was much taller than most of the birds I was seeing, but I didn’t positively identify it as a Greater Yellowlegs until it landed near this Long-Billed Dowitcher.

I really didn’t identify this Red Knot which was with a flock of dowitchers

until I was home in front of my computer.  

I worked hardest to get a good shot of these Black-Bellied Plovers

because they insisted on staying the surf-side of the flocks of shorebirds.  I’m not sure I like them because they are so challenging to photograph or because they’re plumage is so distinctive that it’s impossible to not identify them.

Ruddy Turnstone in Breeding Colors

There’s no way to convey the thrill of a day at the beach during Spring Migration through a series of still photos.  Leslie suggested you needed a movie camera to capture the flight of thousands of shorebirds back and forth on the beach.  My strongest impression of the day was actually the sound of a thousand wings all beating at the same time as the shorebirds rose up as one.

Sometimes, though,  there’s a brief moment when everything slows down and you focus on a single bird.  That happened when this Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage landed right in front of me,

paused just long enough for me to get a profile shot, 

flew a little further out, 

landed, showing it’s beautiful wing-pattern, 

flew out even further,  climbing to the top of the pile

before glancing back to see if I was still paying attention.

I was.  

Too Much Good Stuff

Right after we returned from Santa Rosa we headed to the coast to check out the shorebird Spring migration. Though I was afraid that we might be too late, it turned out to be the perfect time to check it out.

As usual, we got there far earlier than we needed to do, but luckily we weren’t the only ones.  This Short-Billed Dowitcher showed up about the same time we did, early enough that the fog hadn’t totally cleared out.

Before long he was joined by  hundreds more birds like this Dunlin.

As it turned out, there seemed to be more shorebirds at Bottle Beach that day than I had ever seen before.

Needless to say, I ended up with far too many shots, a major reason it has taken me so long to post since my last post.  I’ll admit that I hate sitting at the computer deleting photos almost as much as I love being out in nature taking the shots.

A Sunny Day at the Beach

I was skeptical when I read the forecast for Ocean Shores, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to spend a sunny day on the coast.  As it turned out, it was one of those rare days when not even fog could ruin a sunny morning.  There was a price to pay, though, because it was the strong Northwest winds that blew all the fog away.

It wasn’t quite frigid, but it was cold enough that we didn’t spend too much time looking at the waves break over the jetty

though this Bald Eagle seemed content to brave the winds and surf.

I wondered if the eagle was scaring away other birds because we didn’t see anything else except  gulls until we started to walk back to the car.  Just then I spotted these little guys in the rocks, and I realized I didn’t know what they were.  They looked a little like Turnstones, but I didn’t think they were.  It wasn’t until I got home, put them on the screen, and got out Birds of the Puget Sound Region that I realized that they were the Surfbird that I had sought for years.  

They were so close that it was impossible to take a shot where some of the birds weren’t out of focus.  If I had realized that they were Surfbirds, I would have spent more time trying to get a good profile shot, but this is best shot I managed.

As it turned out, birding wasn’t too good all day, either because the birds were trying to avoid the high wind or because birds are staying away because of the unusually cold weather we are having.

I also originally mis-identified the next-best bird of the day.  I originally thought the Red-Necked Grebe in the upper right of this photo was a Horned Grebe because it was so much smaller than the Western Grebes it was hanging out with.   

It was only later, when it got quite a bit closer, that I realized from its profile that it wasn’t a Horned Grebe.