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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pte Mouillee shorebirds, 30 Aug

I was able to get out to Pte. Mouillee State Game Area for the first time in a while yesterday, and as usual for this time of year it was loaded with shorebirds. Most conspicuously, cell 3 had hundreds of individuals of at least 16 species. An additional three species put the day's shorebird total to 19. Here's a map for those who don't know the cells by name.
Most unusual was a juvenile Dunlin just beginning its preformative molt (cell 3). This was a very unfamiliar looking creature not easily identified at first glance, and constitutes my first sighting of this plumage in my life! This species typically molts out of juvenile plumage and into formative (formerly first basic) entirely on the breeding grounds, such that all young of the year Dunlin are in the gray-colored "basic" body plumage (save a few retained juvenal tertials and flight feathers) by the time they reach our latitude. Here are a few shots of this neat bird:At first we wondered if this bird had some influence from White-rumped Sandpiper genes, but the short wings (primaries falling short of tail tip), typical Dunlin bill length and shape, body size (at least twice the bulk of Semipalmated Sandpipers it was with), and overall jizz feels good for a pure Dunlin. I think it's just the strangeness of the juvenile plumage coloration which had me wondering.

Other highlights were a brightly-plumaged adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper in cell 3:and:

Black-necked Stilt- 1 adult male with 3 juveniles in Cell 5 (pic below)
Red Knot- 1 in south Lead Unit
Long-billed Dowitcher- 5 adults in heavy prebasic molt, including flight feathers, in n. Lead Unit.

Here is a Stilt photo. Note that the adult female hasn't been seen in some time, and the fourth juvenile which was present earlier in the season also was not seen today.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fall songbirds- a kick in the rear!

You know, it always amazes me the way birds surprise me. I was out for what felt like a lazy summer's kayak this afternoon, when I happened into a flock of fall migrant songbirds while watching chickadees and titmice. Maybe it was just that the calendar caught up with me, but for some reason I normally associate the species I saw today (except Blue-winged) with September and October (and cool crisp mornings) rather than August (and its warm soggy days) .

I spent a few minutes with the flock and was able to get these poor photos (digi-binned)
Philadephia Vireo

Blue-winged Warbler

Northern Waterthrush (nice and popcorn yellowy below!)
A fine reminder that no matter what it feels like, it is already autumn for the birds!