A refreshing slap in the face – and some teenage – read ‘confusing’ – birds

Click image for larger version.

After the last week or so of watching Washington shenanigans, I felt like I needed the kind of cool slap in the face only the sea could give  – and not wanting to get wet, I settled for a telephoto image of same as the ocean waves slapped the rocks of the causeway.  😉

Ahhh – but this was a refreshing morning – the same one that concluded with the Green Heron perched the phone wire.  It began with several shorebirds flitting from rock-to-rock on the bay side of the causeway.  Took some study of  “The Sibley Guide to Birds,” but I think I have them sorted out taking into account this is August and so breeding plumage is mostly there and there are a lot of “teenagers” around.

This handsome guy looks to me like a juvenile Sanderling - though of course it could be guy or girl. And the blur in the foreground? Well, it's a blur, but judging from the amount of white I'd guess another Sanderling. (Click to enlarge.) Paul C', who know's his biords far better than I, comments: "A single Semipalmated Sandpiper – Can’t see the black legs, but the overall grayer tones (compared to the next two birds), the pale face, the straight bill, the lack of dingy brown, the wing tips NOT protruding beyond the tail all point to this. "

These two I feel more confident about - but I'm still new to this game, so feel free to correct me. I would say the one on the left is an adult female Sanderling in breeding plumage. And the one on the right. Well, click it to enlarge, then take a close look at the beak. I believe it's a juvenile Dunlin. WRONG on both counts - Paul C. sets the record straight with this comment:"The two together are the same species… Least Sandpipers. Hard to tell size with no other species to compare to, but the yellow legs, dingy brown, attenuated and droopy bill are key characteristics." I'm learning and this helps.

About 15 minutes later I was on the narrow path near the towers that heads to the southeast and this little chap  kept hopping around in front of me. That behavior helped me peg it as  . . .

. . . an Eastern Towhee - well, a juvenile Eastern Towhee. Here Sibley let me down because it doesn't show the juvenile Eastern - it shows the juvenile "Great Plains Spotted Towhee" and says the Eastern Towhee is similar. For me the key field marks are the white corners that how in the tail feathers when it flies - barely detectable here on the ground - and the clear white patch on the dark primaries.

And then there’s the behavior – Pete Dunne says this:

A ground-foraging species that is more easily heard than seen, sticks to the thickets and when seen in the open, is rarely far from cover. Feeds slowly and methodically, with short hops, long pauses, and a two-footed, back-scratching, leaf-scattering, shuffle . . .

from “Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion.”

My last group of birds is well known and easy to identify – the Great Black-Back Gull – but sorting out their ages is another thing. They take three years to mature.

Hmmm . . . my guess is the guy on the right with something in his beak is the only adult, breeding black-back here. The others are younger - maybe third-winter birds. My reasoning is the spot on the beaks appears black on the two on the left and the beaks are quite mottled. The one in the foreground, right - well, I'm just not sure. Hey, maybe they're all adults.? Click on the image for a larger version and see what you think. In a breeding adult the beak is yellow and the spot on it red. The eye has a red orbital ring - but I can't really detect that. As I watched them no one seemed ready to challenge the one with the food.

Oh – but I did hear their distinctive, hoarse call – I was wearing my new, inexpensive, hearing aids! Hmmm. . . sounded a bit like the crowd in Washington now that I think of it – but probably made more sense – at least to other gulls. 😉

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One Response to A refreshing slap in the face – and some teenage – read ‘confusing’ – birds

  1. Paul C says:

    A single Semipalmated Sandpiper – Can’t see the black legs, but the overall grayer tones (compared to the next two birds), the pale face, the straight bill, the lack of dingy brown, the wing tips NOT protruding beyond the tail all point to this. The two together are the same species… Least Sandpipers. Hard to tell size with no other species to compare to, but the yellow legs, dingy brown, attenuated and droopy bill are key characteristics.

    Shorebirds are tough!

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