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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.

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