Monday, December 15, 2014

Columbia Estuary CBC Sandpiper

Today (12/14/14)  I went down to Seaside to participate in the Columbia Estuary Christmas Bird Count.  I was looking forward to birding the south jetty of the Columbia River.  Below is a map of the area I covered.  I walked the woods and beaches from Parking Lot B to D.  The weather was clear but very windy.  Gusts in the area were in the 25-30 knot range.  That was enough to kick up lots of sand and knock my tripod over with my scope on it. No damage done, but I had to be careful walking on the jetty with the wind pushing me around.

While I was walking along the river beach I saw this sandpiper.  I have not cropped the picture at all.

It is a bit to the left of center behind the seaweed on the beach.  This is through my full zoom lens, so with my digital camera , that is about 750 mm effective zoom, or I think that makes it 13x.  You need to appreciate how hard the wind was blowing.  Blasts of sand are coming across the beach.  I can barely see through my spotting scope and I am hunkered down on my knees behind a stump to get out of the direct wind.  The reason the bird caught my eye was that it appeared a bit bigger than the other Dunlins on the beach in comparison to the gulls that were nearby.  The bill seemed to have a distinct even curve to it. I was fighting the wind to see the bird, I figured I might have better luck taking some pictures then cropping the heck out of them to see what it was.  After I took these pictures I went back to trying to hold my scope steady so I could see the bird.  At that point the gulls flushed the bird.  I tried to get back up on my feet to track the bird, the shorebird that I saw fly by had a very bright white wing stripe and seemed to have extensive white on rump but I would not say rump was entire white.  In my notes I said it showed a lot of white on  upper side compared to other Dunlin.  Of course I was using my 10 power binoculars at this time and was looking at a flying object perpendicular to the wind,  my eyes were watery and I was being pushed around by the wind. I lost sight of the bird and could not find it, or I should say all that I did find were Dunlin.  Below are a few of the photos I took cropped in get a better view.  The first shows the curved bill, it seemed more curved than this shows.  I could be the angle.  All the birds had to sit straight into the wind.  Any poor little Sanderling trying to feed was quickly pushed down the beach. So the bird never really moved and I could not view it other than straight down wind.  I did  not see a brighter supercilium and the bird seemed to be  light brown, lighter than a dowitcher.  The darkness of the breast was hard to judge. I would not call it chunky.

I was thinking I had a Curlew Sandpiper, but I decided, barring better views , it was a Dunlin with a more evenly curved bill.  I would like to see it again.

Otherwise it was a fun hunt but no great finds, I did flush a Short-eared Owl at the ponds near Parking Lot C .  And a Peregirne Falcon was doing its best to catch a phalarope there as well.  I thought it was an interesting strategy by the Red Phalarope to survive.  Rather than fly away and let the falcon give chase, the phalarope hovered in mid-air and just dodged the swoops by the falcon.

Here is a nice brown-backed,  clean-sided Dunlin. They were in a mixed Sanderling flock on the ocean beach.

Ruddy Duck at Parking Lot C.

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