Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Marsh Time

 [Short-billed Dowitcher flexing its prehensile bill, on the sod banks of Jenkins Sound Sunday]

It is SO worth getting up at 4:00 a.m., even if you pay for it by dark. On the water by 5, sun not even up, not a soul in sight - or, on the contrary, many souls, those of birds. Dowitchers down from Labrador, Whimbrels from farther (Alaska, even, maybe), Yellow-crowned Night-herons crouching in shady salt creeks stalking fiddler crabs. That was my Sunday morning, foraying into Jenkins Sound and then circumnavigating Nummy Island by kayak.

[Thanks to that flexible bill, dowitchers swallow most of their food without lifting their bills from the mud, so we never get to see what they're eating (a variety of invertebrates), but marine worms like this small bloodworm are pulled to the surface.]

This was my first visit of the year to the massive Laughing Gull colony, or colonies, on the marshes west of Stone Harbor and Wildwood. The gulls nest on piles of wrack, or build their own piles. Something like 10,000 birds are in this colony, the world's largest, and it is a cacaphony indeed.

[Laughing Gulls reserve a special call for mates bringing nesting material: ooo - ooo -ooo ooOOoo. Oh honey, you're going to get lucky tonight ;>).]

[I was surprised to find incomplete clutches of one and two eggs at this late date. The normal is three eggs for Laughing Gulls.]

[Besides the eggs, there were, however, Laughing Gull chicks in various stages of development. These chicks still wore a lot of down.]

[An older Laughing Gull chick flattened itself motionless in the Spartina as I paddled past on the high tide, able to peer over the channel banks to see the nesters.]

[Older still, this Laughing Gull fledgling could fly a short ways, though it made no attempt to flee the kayak.]

[Paddling around in the marsh at dawn is the best way I know to get good views of Clapper Rails.]

[Raucous Boat-tailed Grackles foraged out on the marsh, amid the Spartina patens and glasswort.]

[Hmm, these Willets are in wing molt - which means they must be Western Willets, which breed in the upper midwest, moving south by first heading east to the coast. Eastern Willets don't commence molting until they leave North America, or so says The Shorebird Guide.]

[A juvenile Eastern Willet, with a trace of down on the head and very neat, uniform - and new - feathers. The bill is not full-length yet.]

1 comment:

  1. Great Willet photos--and a great reminder about the different molt schedules of the two taxa. Thanks.