Tag Archives: Ruddy Turnstone

A new sandpiper

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New bird! This little Semipalmated Sandpiper is the 190th bird I have photographed, IDed and blogged.

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I was at Fort Pierce Inlet this morning and took a quick walk out on the jetty after rain.

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Have I mentioned the sargassum is a bit of a problem on area beaches right now? This is the worst I’ve seen it – very thick and full of trash.

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Ruddy Turnstone goes poof.

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At first I thought the solo little sandpiper with the turnstones was a Sanderling.

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But it seemed smaller, especially next to the turnstone, and active in a different way, zipping around here and there.

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Preening Ruddy Turnstone and the little sandpiper.

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Snowy Egret.

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The flock of turnstones and little sandpiper. First fisherman arrives.

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One of these birds is not like the others.

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I checked for birds resembling Sanderlings on All About Birds and thought this might be a Western Sandpiper. I posted the guess to What’s This Bird, to doublecheck, and was helpfully informed it was a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Audubon…

Small and plain in appearance, this sandpiper is important in terms of sheer numbers. It often gathers by the thousands at stopover points during migration. Semipalmated Sandpipers winter mostly in South America, and studies have shown that they may make a non-stop flight of nearly 2000 miles from New England or eastern Canada to the South American coast. The name “Semipalmated” refers to slight webbing between the toes, visible only at extremely close range.

Beach bird walk

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Bathtub Reef Beach on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida last Sunday around noon. Red flag advises against swimming but does not forbid it (that would be two red flags).

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I walked south to the inlet and back, 2.2 miles, for an hour and 45 minutes, watching and counting birds.

Here’s my eBird checklist: Oct 7 Bathtub Beach.

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When little shorebirds are holding still, it’s hard to see them.

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These people walked right past and didn’t seem to notice the plovers.

Fancy houses along the beach here. It’s the gated community of Sailfish Point, right at the southern tip of the island. Can’t get in unless you live there – although you can walk along the beach.

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These are Semipalmated Plovers, a new bird for me.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

A small dark shorebird with a single band across its chest, the Semipalmated Plover is the most common plover seen on migration in most areas.

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Audubon

The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name “semipalmated” refers to partial webbing between the bird’s toes.

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Willets flew in for a short visit.

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A Ruddy Turnstone was digging into a sea turtle shell.

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A sleepy solitary Sanderling was near the turnstone and small flock of plovers.

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The turnstone was very busy.

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I watched it rushing here and there, pushing away bits of sargassum , sticks and shells to see what was underneath.

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“It’s turning ‘stones’ like a turnstone!” I thought.

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Audubon

Best known for habit of inserting bill under stones, shells, etc., and flipping them over to find food underneath. Several birds may work together to overturn a larger object. Often probes under seaweed or debris.

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Gusty east wind and strong surf. Brown Pelican can handle it.

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Brown Pelicans have a wingspan between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. They are the smallest of the eight pelican species, but still very big birds.

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Getting closer to the inlet, I came upon a bird I’ve only seen once before: a Black-bellied Plover.

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It relocated as I walked past on the high part of the beach, but didn’t go far. Nice view of wings and tail.

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Audubon

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.

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Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia.

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The other time I spotted these birds was at Ragged Neck in in New Hampshire in Nov. 2016, along with some Snow Buntings.

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An attractive, large shorebird.

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A couple of guys on jetskis were playing in the waves near the inlet.

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Sanderling in motion!

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I see these sandpipers a lot in non-breeding season.

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You don’t see too many fishermen at this spot since they have to walk a ways to get here.

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Looking across the St. Lucie  inlet from Hutchinson Island to Jupiter Island. And Sanderlings running along the sand.

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Little Blue Herons… an adult on the rocks and an immature in the water. Yes, the young ones are white not “blue”.

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Little Blue strut.

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Sanderlings at rest.

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View west from the inlet. The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon connect to the Atlantic Ocean here.

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Sandwich Tern, a tern I know thanks to the yellow bill tip!

Ruddy turnstone at Tiger Shores

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My unscientific observation of this chubby sandpiper, the Ruddy Turnstone, is that it is ADORABLE.

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This observation was made yesterday afternoon while sitting in a beach chair on Tiger Shores Beach on Hutchinson Island. No hardship was experienced in the taking of these photos.

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Highly trained German Shepherd no longer attempts to retrieve cast lures, as in days of old.

Breezy but not windy, with temps in the upper 80s and an occasional passing tropical shower. There will be no complaints here.

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This bird retains its beautiful breeding plumage still.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

There are about 350 species of shorebirds (order Charadriiformes) in the world, but there are only 2 turnstones, the Ruddy Turnstone and the Black Turnstone, both of which occur in North America.

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Young turnstones need to grow up and learn to fly quickly. They take their first flight when they are around 19 days old and fly thousands of miles to the nonbreeding grounds 2 days later. To make things harder, their parents will have departed by this time, leaving the youngsters to make their first migration on their own.

Ruddy Turnstones need to fly fast to cover the enormous distances between their breeding and nonbreeding grounds. Flight speeds of turnstones average between 27 and 47 miles per hour.

Amazing and adorable.

Vitamin blue

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I like where I live!

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In the 8 o’clock hour, this morning at the beach, I wasn’t the only one appreciating.

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Sanderlings are back in town!

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They nest in the tundra of the High Arctic and spend the rest of the year all over the place, mostly on sandy beaches, from Nova Scotia to South America. I see plenty around here in fall and winter.

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Hard-packed sand here today, good for walking and running, with lots of whole shells washed up too.

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(Taller buildings start at the border of the next county north, St. Lucie.)

Birds and fisherfolk are excited about the run of the baitfish. I confirmed at the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop yesterday that they ARE anchovies, also known around here as glass minnows.

Glass minnows and silversides are anchovies. Yes, the same anchovy that you eat on pizza or in Caesar dressing. The bay anchovy is Anchoa mitchilli for those of you that hope to catch me in my identification mistakes. They range from Maine through the Gulf of Mexico in great abundance. They are easily recognized by the fact that they are transparent with a broad silver stripe down the side and are seldom over three inches long.

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Sanderlings feeding.

According to Wikipedia (citing the Oxford English Dictionary), the name derives from Old English sand-yrðling, “sand-ploughman.”

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Pelicans passing by, with some typically awesome summer clouds.

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It is very good for you to stare out at blue ocean and sky, did you know?

The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” says Shuster. “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”

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Just don’t look directly at the sun. Oops.

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Birds and shells galore. And the typical beachfront condos of the Martin County part of the Treasure Coast. Our county has a building height restriction of four stories.

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Radar had a good workout.

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I call that ear position “Naughty Rabbit.”

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Just offshore, the Sunday morning tarpon seekers.

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Water temps today are 81 degrees F. The air was a couple of degrees warmer than the ocean this morning, but going up to 90 today (as usual).

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Surf-forecast.com

Stuart Public Beach sea temperatures peak in the range 29 to 30°C (84 to 86°F) on around the 10th of August and are at their lowest on about the 11th of February, in the range 21 to 24°C (70 to 75°F).

Actual sea surface water temperatures close to shore at Stuart Public Beach can vary by several degrees compared with these open water averages. This is especially true after heavy rain, close to river mouths or after long periods of strong offshore winds. Offshore winds cause colder deep water to replace surface water that has been warmed by the sun.

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Sanderlings feed by running down the beach after a receding wave to pick up stranded invertebrates or probe for prey hidden in the wet sand. Diet includes small crabs, amphipods and other small crustaceans, polychaete worms, mollusks, and horseshoe crab eggs.

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My husband said he noticed a big hatch-out of tiny, new mole crabs (aka sand crabs, sand fleas) the other day. I wonder if that food resource is one reason the Sanderlings are here now.

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In winter I don’t always see this many together. I’ll bet these Sanderlings are in the middle of a bigger trip south.

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The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. The Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel are the only other shorebirds that rival its worldwide distribution.

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“You care about birds and blue horizon brain waves, but I only care about the ball. C’mon, throw it.”

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Lonely beach toy.

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A few Ruddy Turnstones with the Sanderling flock.

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The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. – Henry Beston

Bait run plus terns

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This was the scene at Bob Graham Beach, Hutchinson Island last Tuesday: a thick black line of bait fish in the blue-green ocean.

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A fisherman told me the bait fish running at this time of year are called “anchovies.” The big and famous mullet run comes a few weeks later.

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I love when the wind and surf are calm enough to see into the water like this. It’s like the Caribbean then, instead of the often-windy Shipwreck, I mean Treasure Coast.

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Tarpon were cruising along right offshore beyond the bait line, occasionally swirling on the surface as they fed on little fish.

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I didn’t get any good tarpon shots but trust me it was an impressive show and everyone on the beach was enjoying it.

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Bait clouds.

Here’s a drone video of tarpon during the mullet run at a beach further south on the Florida coast: Florida Mullet Run & Tarpon.

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But let’s get to the birds!

Ruddy Turnstones still in breeding plumage. Must be migrating down from their northern nesting areas.

It may be 90 degrees but “bird fall” (and fish fall) has begun.

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Buddha bird.

Be the bird.

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A little further down the beach, lots of terns including this Royal.

I’ve been trying to learn our local terns!

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This one is a Sandwich Tern.

A bird of marine coasts of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, the Sandwich Tern is readily identified by its shaggy crest and yellow-tipped black bill.

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The tern with the large orange bill is a Royal Tern. Sandwich Tern above and non-breeding Laughing Gull on the right.

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Step aside for the lone White Ibis, little Laughing Gull!

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A beach full of fat and happy birds, having recently fed on the abundant bait fish.

The terns do the work and the gulls steal their fish, often. Though I have seen the gulls skim a fish right off the surface of the water too.

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Sandwich Tern.

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Whee!

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I think the one smaller tern with the orange bill is a Common Tern. But they look like Forster’s Terns too.

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Sandwich Tern and some Laughing Gulls.

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Very distinctive bill, in color and length – I think I’ve learned this tern.

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Family dynamics of Sandwich Terns?

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These women stopped and turned around when they got to the birds. Very polite of them not to make them fly.

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Relocating.

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Gull practicing its thievery skills.

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Two adult non-breeding and one immature Royal Tern in this pic.

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Royal family.

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Sandwich Terns with the Laughing Gulls here.

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Tern dive.

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So many fish to choose from.

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Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns.

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Away they go.

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And down the beach I find one little Piping Plover! (I checked on What’s This Bird to make sure it wasn’t a Snowy Plover, since they look alike – online – to me.)

Everyone needs a secret beach hideout. Researchers only recently discovered that more than one-third of the Piping Plover population that breeds along the Atlantic coast spends the winter in the Bahamas.

Don’t you want to be the researchers?… hey, we found the Piping Plovers… in the Bahamas!

Ruddy Turnstones on the jetty

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Ruddy Turnstones on rocks along the jetty in Fort Pierce on Sunday.

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These chubby little shorebirds are long distance migrants.

In North America, Ruddy Turnstones migrate to western Europe, southeast Asia, Australia, South America, and the west and east coasts of North America. Some birds travel more than 6,500 miles between breeding and nonbreeding grounds.

And…

Ruddy Turnstones breed along rocky coasts and in the tundra across the High Arctic. In North America they breed in sparsely vegetated tundra near marshes, streams, and ponds. During migration they stop along coastal rocky and sandy beaches, mudflats, and shorelines of freshwater lakes to refuel. On their wintering grounds they congregate along rocky shorelines, mudflats, deltas, and sandy beaches.

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The ruddy turnstone has a varied diet including carrion, eggs and plant material but it feeds mainly on invertebrates. Insects are particularly important in the breeding season. At other times it also takes crustaceans, molluscs and worms. It often flips over stones and other objects to get at prey items hiding underneath; this behaviour is the origin of the name “turnstone”. It usually forages in flocks.

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Like the Brown Pelican, Ruddy Turnstones also search for bits of bait and fish from the fishermen on the jetty.

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This pelican is not shy.

Shorebirds returning

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Ruddy Turnstone rests out of the wind in a footprint.

A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone’s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia).

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Willet on the rocks.

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The willet (Tringa semipalmata), formerly in the monotypic genus Catoptrophorus as Catoptrophorus semipalmatusis a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. It is a relatively large and robust member sandpiper, and is the largest of the species called “shanks” in the genus Tringa.

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These rocks are part of the Anastasia geological formation. They are quite striking near the House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island.

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Also taking a break from feeding, a Sanderling.

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The beach, looking north. We stopped by yesterday in the late afternoon to see if there were any more falcons coming through. There were not.

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But this little Sanderling landed right next to me and let me take a few photos. Pretty plumage. Sweet little birds.

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The Sanderling’s black legs blur as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits. Learn this species, and you’ll have an aid in sorting out less common shorebirds. These extreme long-distance migrants breed only on High Arctic tundra, but during the winter they live on most of the sandy beaches of the world.

Welcome back to your “winter” home!

Ruddy turnstone Sunday

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Ruddy Turnstone at Bob Graham Beach last Sunday.

We were parked in our new Tommy Bahama “Relax” backpack beach chairs with built in cooling pockets and cup holders for Sunday brunch beverages and a flock of these little guys were coming quite close, hoping for crumbs from our fresh, hot Cuban sandwiches from the nearby Island Pantry.

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A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone‘s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia). They use their stout, slightly upturned bill to flip debris on the beach to uncover insects and small crustaceans.

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Chubster.

For shorebirds like the Ruddy Turnstone, getting fat is critical. Unlike humans, which use carbohydrates as fuel, birds use fat to power their migrations. Birds that don’t get fat enough before they depart often leave later and some may not even make it to the breeding or wintering grounds.

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It was a very windy day. Some fishermen battled the elements.

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There were some Sanderlings around too, as there often are with Ruddy Turnstones.

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A couple of kite surfers were fun to watch just off the beach.

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Wind and water.

Shorebirds galore

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Willet in the surf at Bathtub Beach last Thursday.

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Willets are often seen alone. They walk deliberately, pausing to probe for crabs, worms and other prey in sand and mudflats, or to pick at insects and mollusks.

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Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In his famous Birds of America accounts, John James Audubon wrote that Willet eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.

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A couple of Willets plus a Sanderling for size.

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Ruddy turnstones. I see a lot of these but have not yet blogged them.

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The ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. The scientific name is from Latin. The genus name arenaria derives from arenarius, “inhabiting sand, from arena, “sand”. The specific interpres means “messenger”; when visiting Gotland in 1741, Linnaeus thought that the Swedish word Tolk “interpreter” applied to this species, but in the local dialect the word means “legs” and is used for the redshank.