Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dowitchers and a pelagic

These dowitchers were hanging out in the same pond in Astoria, Oregon as the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were visiting on Sept 26, 2015.  I, of course, dipped on the Sharp-tailed having arrived just after they left.

The assumption is that Short-billed like saltwater and are on the coast and Long-billed like fresh water in are the valley.

Some of the other birders in the area simply mentioned these as dowitchers.

Here is a close-up of one of the birds.  I think the length of the bill alone is long enough to be diagnostic for a Long-billed Dowitcher.  The plumage looks uniform, the tertials are solid and thinly edged and the over-all coloring is drab. There is also a light buffy color to the underparts. The back has thinly edged dark feathers.  I think this is a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, probably female with that long bill.  I also noted the obvious bright white arch under the eye, a minor point but was clear; it is mentioned in The Shorebird Guide, I was looking for it on these birds.  

This bird also shows the long bill.  The bill looks gently arched through the outer half, seems fine-tipped.  Also the rear end looks blunt rather than attenuated with the primaries not sticking past tertials.  All these points are variable, but things to look for on Long-billed.  Also Short-billed tend to molt into basic plumage on the winter grounds rather than at stop-over points like Astoria, Oregon.  So to see a Short-billed with this much gray in the plumage aspect would be unusual this far north and in late September.  

Long-billed Dowitchers are bigger birds, more front-heavy in structure (supposedly).  When they are at rest, they need to sit up at a more upright position than the horizontal body position of a Short-billed.  On the sleeping bird below, I have no idea if that is upright or not. 
Seems a bit upright, but probably only a good point to look for on an odd bird in large sleeping flock.  I can see the obvious under eye arches.  But I see that on some Short-billed and light position probably matters.

Once again, I see finely edged plain tertials of a Long-billed.  I cannot tell if that back bird has some new lower scapulars or if it is just a bright spot.

Long-billed Dowitchers are supposed to look like they swallowed a grapefruit, this point is only good when they are in eating position and are somewhat relaxed.  Note the almost right angle of the head and back on the front bird.  It looks very round and has a body looking like a grapefruit.  Beware of skinny underfed birds.

I was wondering if those gray feathers mixed in with the dark feathers were new basic scapulars.

Long-billed Dowitcher in a salt water pond on the coast.

The same day I wandered around the burned area at Parking Lot C at Ft Stevens State Park.  Lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the area.  This bird shows the low contrast face pattern of an Audubon.

A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were finding something to eat on the burned pines.

I really wish they had let the area burn out a bit more.  It has become overgrown with an introduced species of pine.

Lots of Surfbirds at the cove in Seaside were fun.  I have become very fond of walking way out the rocks toward Tillamook Head; my dog , Huck, does not enjoy working around the rocky path, but sticks with me.

Elegant Terns art Hammond Boat Basin.

On the 3rd of October I did my last pelagic trip of the fall.  We had a few sightings of Flesh-footed Shearwater, but I only got a brief glimpse of one of them.  This is a fulmar in front of one of the large fishing boats we visited.

Thousands of Northern Fulmar and California Gulls.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin.  We also saw Dall Porpoise, Dall Porpoise are the fastest dolphin/porpoise in the sea, they get up to 30 knots, equalled amazingly by the huge Orca.  These Pacific White-sided are quick but not that fast, I think about 25 knots is their top speed. 

I am determined to get some videos of pelagic birds flying, I tried on Saturday with absolute horrible results.  Moved camera way too fast.  Here is the baseline effort I will work to improve next year.  Hold onto your lunches.

Thanks for visiting.

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