The endangered Piping Plovers have been on Gooseberry this month, but their nesting was not successful. They sure do have a major case of the cutes though! As with all single images in this post, click to enlarge. (That’s a Least Sandpiper behind him – thanks to Jamie Bogart of the Lloyd Center for the ID!)
All spring there has been relatively little bird action on Gooseberry – at least to this weekly visitor – but on our July 7 visit it started to pick up and by July 13 things were going strong. Well, at least Don and I saw some great birds. But as Pogo would have reminded us, Friday the 13th came on Friday this month! That means I “took” more than 100 pictures – without a card in the camera! So I went back on July 15 alone and took even more – terrific day. But the main thing this tells me is that Gooseberry really comes alive in mid-July. In the following video-slideshow the first pictures are from July 7, but once you get to the bull dog in the car, that’s today. And the extensive inflight images of the scolding – notice it’s beak is seldom closed – Willet was actually four different birds which were not happy with having several the humans on the beach, presumably because they have young in the tall grass nearby.
I hope the slide show conveys the excitement and beauty of an hour on Gooseberry – especially fairly early in the morning. I’ve pulled out what I feel are some of the better and more interesting shots and put them here in large format – click on any image for a larger version. I’ve also tried to identify the birds, but a few really have me guessing. The Great Egret, however, is easy – I just seldom see them on Gooseberry. They are common in the marshes opposite nearby Horseneck Beach. So it was fun to watch this one catch breakfast out at the end of Gooseberry and gulp it down. Even more fun, however, was to see what looked to me like a young family of Piping Plovers snapping up food in the tidal pool as a Willet took a bath in that pool and as a Least Sandpiper joined them. I sent some of these pictures to Jamie Bogart because it looked like the result of a successful breeding - Jamie is the person who sets up the protective string and wire around nests of these beautiful birds. He wrote back: ” . . . these are likely a fledged brood with adult(s) from another site (eg Allens Pond) that are passing through Gooseberry. The south tip will start to get active with migrants over the next few weeks as the early stages of the shorebird migratory movements begin….” So they weren’t Gooseberry residents – but they still were fun.
As you can see, one bird is in obvious breeding plumage – I assume the other in front of it is one of the young.
This is the Least Sandpiper
When I asked Jamie about that last picture, he wrote: ” . . . the bird you have there is a Least Sandpiper, which has the yellow legs. Semipalmated have the black legs, that’s the distinction.” That was the 7th. What follows are photos from the 15th. Now we never let the “kids” stick their heads out the car window. I don’t consider it safe. But it sure is cute and reminds me of how dogs used to ride in my car when I was much, much younger. It’s summer, of course, and there are a lot of people here. Even at 7 am when I started down the beach, some folks had set up an umbrella and were milling about while another person was walking two dogs nearby. This, plus my own presence evidently stirred up four Willets who wheeled about the skies yelling at us. I assume they were nesting somewhere in the beach grass. Of course, being nearly deaf I could only hear them once in a while – but the open beak tells the story in the pictures. Beautiful birds, especially in flight – other weeks I thought I had seen a nesting pair near the southeast tip of the island, but these were all much closer to the parking lot. Checking Pete Dunne’s “Essential Field Guide Companion,” this behavior is absolutely common for the Willet: “Fairly tame and easily approached; when trespassers cause nesting adults to become frenzied, birds hover and stoop until the intruder retreats to the scant safety of the neighboring Willet’s territory.” Yep – well I didn’t feel threatened, but I felt well-scolded! As usual, Dunne’s descriptions really fit ” . . . a long, heavy, straight, and relatively untapered bill, a thick neck , a compact body, and long, thick, grayish legs.” Meanwhile, in the nearby water were what I thought of as Huey, Dewey, and Louie! (Oh – and Wikipedia informs me that their real names are Huebert, Deuteronomy and Louis.) I have noticed several times this spring that the Common Eiders seem to be hanging around and presumably breeding here – but I saw no signs of young. Well that changed. Here are some adults Eiders with obvious young. The Eider’s long, hevay beak sets it apart and when Bren saw the pictures of the young her first reaction was they “must grow into those beaks!”
Beaks to grow into!
Next up was a familiar bird – I’ve seen these on Gooseberry several times, but they seem so out of place they always give me pause. It’s a Rock Dove – a pigeon. Notice the white “cere” where beak meets head? OK – I don’t have a clue what a “cere” is, but that’s what it’s called in the “Sibley Guide to Birds,” and frankly I never noticed it before, but it really shouts for attention in this picture.
Red-winged blackbird, I believe. There were small flocks of these ont he beach and in the reeds. I seem some – maybe this one – are immatures, born here this summer.
Help me out? My first guess was Least Sandpiper because I’ve been seeing a lot of them on sure. But the bill seems longer and more curved, so my second guess is Dunlin.
I usually say “look for a rock that moves” – but when these guys are prowling in the seaweed they blend in even better than they do on rocks and you can hardly detect any movement.
Now this is a Red-winged Blackbird – ok, we’re not seeing the red, but I’m confident it’s there. ;-)
Tern – but which one? I don’t know them well enough yet to be sure.
Even had a bird in the sky? Well – feathery cirrus clouds – thought they were pretty!
Willets seemed to be every where on this day – this give you an idea of their size next to a gull.
Now the next pic might tempt you to think Piping Plover in breeding garb, but this is the more common Semipalmated Plover - the difference is his back is brown where the Piping Plover os grey.
Semipalmated plover in breeding plumage.
And this, I believe, is the Semipalmated Plover in flight – but a juvenile – notice the dark beak? I think that’s about the only thing that separates him/her from the adult above.
Willet at breakfast.
Just hanging out, what are you doing? (Sorry, the cormorants just crack me up.)
Cabbage White – notice the dark wing tips and one or two spots – these are all over Gooseberry this time of year.
My continuing challenge is to catch any butterfly in flight and in focus – some are more difficult than others and I find the Cabbage White especially frustrating this way.
On the reeds in the marshy area between the towers and south point Redwinged Blackbirds, tree swallows, and “LBJs” were hanging out.
I could guess – but I would probably guess wrong – so the above goes in the category of Little Brown Jobby (LBJ).
One of my favorites – the Yellow Warbler. Warblers don’t sit still for long, so I’m always happy to get their picture.
This series is of Tree Swallows, I believe, which gather in increasing numbers as summer wanes. I assume this is an adult and young, but darned if I can tell for sure.
Parting shots . . .