Total Pageviews

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snowy Plover- turning the page

The past 2 months have been brutal. I have missed more rarities in a row than probably ever before. There was the lifer Ruff which had been seen all day but conveniently disappeared shortly before my arrival well before dusk (the only shorebird on the pond to do so), a county tick Black Tern which disappeared 20 minutes into my 30 minute drive (I have 100s of hours into this one), the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher which disappeared as I began driving to see it (despite 18 straight hours in one place), the Swainson's Hawk which was present at dusk with a strong north wind all night to hold it down (OK, this one was expected), and of course, the 'gimme' Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at the Detroit Zoo heron rookery which failed to show during my visit a while back. I have been frustrated. I have been discouraged.

The silver lining in still being at 362 despite thinking I should have been in the upper 360s, is that none of these species are troublesome over the long term. Most will occur at least annually and it is but a matter of time until I nail them all down. So it was with some trepidation that I left this morning to try for the very rare Snowy Plover found yesterday at Ludington State Park by Chris Lipps and another (anonymous) technician of the MDNR. This, unlike the aforementioned species, is a very rare bird in these parts, the last MI record being from 1994, and one of only 2 for Michigan. Fortunately, the ID was clinched with photos from the beginning, so the only issue was whether or not it would stay the night. It did.
The bird put on quite a show during my visit, repeatedly being oblivious to the close approach of beachcombers, and at one point walking to me for a very close encounter (side note: I did not move, I sat still from a distance of 150 ft., and the bird walked right down the beach in front of me). 

The bird is heavily abraded on its upperparts and wings, and on its primaries as well. These are good signs that the bird is a youngster, hatched last year (ie. a second calendar year). The upperparts have but a few darker brown, fresher, feathers amongst the sea of very pale brown, old, ones. I believe this means the bird had a very limited prealternate molt but have yet to do a literature check.

 Interestingly, the distribution of the dark brown scapulars and mantle feathers (and of the crown feathers) is suspiciously similar to that of the second calendar year Snowy Plover seen at Conneaut, OH and Presque Isle Park, PA about a week ago. See these photos of that individual which has been missing for around a week.

Comments on the similarity (or lack thereof) of the MI and OH birds would be appreciated, as would links to additional photos of either.

Here are the remainder of my best photos:

This is a much anticipated potential 3rd state record if accepted by MBRC. It was seen into the evening at the same site by many others as well.

No comments: