Shorebirds returning

IMG_8276

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).

IMG_8290

Willets are coming back south too.

IMG_8306.jpg

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.

IMG_8293

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

IMG_8296

Also taking a break from feeding, a Sanderling.

IMG_8307

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.

IMG_8310

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

IMG_8311

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!

Shorebirds, two kinds

IMG_7082-2

Two Willets walking on a beach, St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.

IMG_7066-2

Sanderlings too.

IMG_7067-2

Audubon Field Guide Sanderling

This is the little sandpiper that runs up and down the beach “like a clockwork toy,” chasing the receding waves. Plumper and more active than most small sandpipers, and quite pale at most times of year, a good match for dry sand. Sanderlings nest only in limited areas of the far north, but during migration and winter they are familiar sights on coastal beaches all over the world.

Shorebirds galore

img_5850-2

Willet in the surf at Bathtub Beach last Thursday.

img_5851-2

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.

img_5852-2

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.

img_5859-2

A couple of Willets plus a Sanderling for size.

img_5897-2

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

img_5899-2

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.

Tringa semipalmata

img_5552-2

A Willet on the rocks, at Ross Witham Beach near the House of Refuge.

The willet (Tringa semipalmata), formerly in the monotypic genus Catoptrophorus as Catoptrophorus semipalmatus, is a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. It is a good-sized and stout scolopacid, the largest of the shanks.

img_5555-2

The rocks are part of the Anastasia Formation

The Anastasia Formation, named by E. H. Sellards in 1912, is composed of interbedded sands and coquina limestones. The formation is an orangish brown, soft to moderately hard, coquina of whole and fragmented mollusk shells within sand often cemented by sparry calcite.

img_5556-2

Makes a nice Willet perch.

The dawn of 2017

img_5313-2

Made it just in time to see the first sunrise of 2017! That seems lucky.

Husband and I took the dog to Santa Lucea Beach on Hutchinson Island for his morning beach run, chasing the ball over and over. Fishermen were catching bluefish. People were taking photos of the sun and the ocean.

img_5341-2

It is so great to go to bed early and then get up early for the New Year. That’s how it is when you are 50-something.

img_5345-2

My first photographed birds of the New Year: grackles running around at the gas station.

img_5347-2

I fueled up and my husband got us some coffee. Here he is watching the birds while the birds watch him back.

img_5350-2

Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they’ve been slightly stretched. They’re taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens.

Grackles are old friends of mine, ever since the day I made that wish that came true.

img_5379-2

We stopped at East Island under the bridge next, to rinse the sand off the dog with a swim in the Indian River Lagoon. I spotted this solo Willet.

These long-legged, straight-billed shorebirds feed along beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores. Willets are common on most of our coastline—learn to recognize them and they’ll make a useful stepping-stone to identifying other shorebirds.

img_5385-2

East Island under the Ernest Lyons Bridge, with John, Radar and a fisherman wearing one of those straw hats I want.

img_5395-2

Also at East Island, a Little Blue Heron.

img_5396-2

More gray and purple than blue, if you ask me.

img_5400-2

Morning light is so nice.

img_5402-2

Happy New Year to all my bird, dog, and human friends!

Saltmarsh pair

Willet

A Willet flapped and called noisily over my head on a walk near Rye Harbor a couple of days ago.

Willet

Piercing calls and distinctive wing markings make the otherwise subdued Willet one of our most conspicuous large shorebirds. Whether in mottled brown breeding plumage or gray winter colors, Willets in flight reveal a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing.

Willets

The Willet pair may have been nesting in the marsh off Locke Road. They took turns strafing me.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology “Cool Facts” on the Willet

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.