Monday, February 28, 2011

I.D. Tip: Winter Shorebirds

They're Dunlin. Except if they look nearly white and/or are chasing waves on the beach - then they are Sanderlings. Or if they're taller, upright, and plump - then they're Black-bellied Plovers. See, you too can be a winter shorebird expert. . .

[Dunlin with a single Sanderling, near Norbury's Landing, NJ, Sunday February 27 2011. Dunlin like mud, and are brown; Sanderlings like sand, and are nearly white. Amazing how so many birds are the "right" color! Click to enlarge.]

O.k., so maybe it's not quite that simple, but December-February, if I see a flock of shorebirds flying over a mudflat I'll confidently call them Dunlin at any distance. Unless they're whitish and/or over a sandy beach, in which case they are Sanderlings.

[Black-bellied Plovers complicate things, but only a bit. They are another prime winter shorebird candidate, but are obviously bigger than Dunlin, with the upright stance of a plover when walking and brightly patterned in flight (white tail and wing stripe, white underparts with black axillars) . Many of the lower birds in this photo are Black-bellied Plovers, the rest are Dunlin. Norbury's Landing, February 27 2011. Click to enlarge.]

Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, and the odd wintering yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover or Least Sandpiper complicate the winter shorebird department, as do Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones (almost always on rocks); Marbled Godwit; "Western" Willet (very tall, pale, flashy wing pattern); and of late, returning Piping Plovers, the first of which was detected at Two Mile Beach by Tom Reed. I also understand Sam Galick wins the LAGU award for the first of season Laughing Gull he saw at St. Peters yesterday.

[American Oystercatchers are shorebirds (the biggest ones we have) and can be found in small numbers in winter, but hardly complicate things, flying around blowing their whistles like Keystone Cops smoking orange cigars. . . these obey the traffic signal on the free bridge to Nummy Island, February 23, 2011.]

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of shorebirds that love rocks... the jetty at Higbee Beach has been hosting hundreds of roosting Dunlin lately at the highest point of high tide... with a couple of dapper-looking Great Cormorants loafing on the structure at the end of the jetty.