Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sounds of Summer, Part Two

[Home sweet home.]

A sound of summer (the audible kind) I forgot to mention, how I know not, is the piping whistle of Osprey. Taylor Sound, between the parkway and Wildwood, should be renamed "The Place of Ospreys," since it is ringed with Osprey nests: nests on duck blinds, on derelict cabins, and on more conventional Osprey towers. And the birds pipe constantly, or whenever one of their number flies over with a fish, which is nearly the same thing as the young near flying stage and insistently beg for food from busily hunting adults.

 [Shorebirds will often stretch their wings when nervous, a sign they are about to fly. These Semipalmated Sandpipers foraged along a muddy edge in Taylor Sound this morning.]

We saw many shorebirds while kayaking today: Whimbrels feasting on fiddler crabs; peep probing worms from the muckiest mud you can imagine; Spotted Sandpipers teetering on sod banks; Greater Yellowlegs chasing fish. All the shorebirds were adults; the first juvenile shorebirds (not counting the local Willets) will probably be Least Sandpipers appearing around August 1.

 [Semipalmated Sandpiper above, Least below. Compared to Semi, Least is browner above, small-headed and hunched (I swear they even look hunched when flying), finer and more drooped bill, and yes, there are those yellow legs. These two birds were making their way across the same flat, feeding within feet of each other, and here then is another clue: which one kept its toes dry?]

 [Spotted Sandpiper. The relatively sparse spotting, and small size of the spots, suggests a male; females have larger, rounder spots, and more of them - of course that's breeding plumage, call it unspotted sandpiper in non-breeding plumage. Witmer Stone found nests of this species in Cape May, but breeding in south coastal NJ was not proven during the NJ breeding bird atlas. They nest elsewhere in NJ, and begin appearing as migrants in late June, confounding assessment of breeding status.]

[Makes you glad they're only a couple inches across. . . and wish you were a Whimbrel. The decurve of a Whimbrel's bill matches the curve of Fiddler Crab burrows. Night-herons love these things, too, as do gulls.]

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