Yeah, “dun” is an apt description of the color (at least in winter,) of this rather large “peep” known as a Dunlin – and Peter Dunne is my main source for information on it.
in winter and in northern coastal marshes, the most common sandpiper (in places, numerically abundant)
Not sure how many bird references I have, but when I really want to know about a bird and want to read something that is written well and offers insights no other guide I have does, I always turn to Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion” – aptly named,too!
And that’s what I did this morning, having trekked out to Gooseberry with my friend Don and encountered a slew of what I assumed were Dunlins – and not knowing whether they were winter inhabitants, or early migrants. (Still not absolutely sure, for theyd o migrate as well.) What did surprise me was how close I could get to them and they never spooked!
Webster on “dun” – of a dull grayish-brown color – and Dunne writes: In winter becomes a nearly featureless, dun-backed bird with dingy underparts . . .
. . . the body is stocky. the head exceedingly round, the bill long, pointy, and wilted at the tip, and the legs sturdy and black.
The tide was extremely low.
The bird loves mud and company.
Dunlin forages in exposed mud or shallow water.
Dunlin feeds by walking several steps, then executing an exploratory probe into the muck. If it likes what it feels, it drives its bill in. frequently clear to the face.
All of which I found fascinating, but what I really liked was the way these guys can outfly the Blue Angels. I mean, they are just fun t watch from a distance where all you see is a cloud that suddenly changes from grey to white and you realize someone has called for a break and swiftly everyone has obeyed.
Flight is direct and sizzling fast, literally. The wings of passing flocks make a hissing sound.
Shifting flocks are linear. Birds are cohesive, but not tightly packed.
The next three shots were all taken within a span of one second!
When evading falcons, birds fuse into tightly packed flocks that move as a single entity and change shape like pooled mercury at the mercy of a child’s finger.
Was there a falcon around? I don’t know. I have certainly seen them on Gooseberry. But Don and I simply marveled at this flock as it quickly flew back and forth, going several hundred feet in one direction, then several hundred in the other, without any apparent idea of getting somewhere.
Now, for a little comic relief, we did enjoy this gull as it seemed to puzzled over what to do with it’s lucky find – and no, it did not fly up and drop it on a rock – well, maybe it did later. I soon was distracted by the Dunlins, so I’m not sure.