Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shorebirding Ft Stevens

The fog never burned off the beach at Ft Stevens St Park in Clatsop County on 8/20/16.  That kept the temps at a nice 55-60 degrees.  Far better than the near 100 degrees in the valley.  Low tide was at 8:30  am, my plan was to check out the mud flats at Parking Lot B rather than hit the low tide at the beach.  The problem was the very low tide had any peeps too far out in the bay and covered by the fog.  I did see little groups of  Marsh Wrens, a Virginia Rail, a few Purple Martin and some Common Yellowthroats, like the one below.

Discouraged by the lack of peeps, I went back to Pk Lot B and walked up the beach to Pk Lot C, hit the river beach, then walked the road back to Pk Lot B. A 5.5 mile loop including wandering the mud flats. Total peeps:  one Semipalmated Plover.

I started at 8 am, by now it was 11:30.   I decided to check out the mudflats again now that the tide had risen. This is a great place to bird with tide maybe 2-3 feet above mean low and rising.  That leaves a narrow strip of mud along the bay with shorebirds close to see. If you stand quietly at the last area of mud, the shorebirds will come into you.

A flock of 15 dowitchers were on the flats. Most were Short-billed Dowitchers.  I thought this big fat one was a Long-billed Dowitcher.  It was larger and was not as brightly patterned.  The fog made it tough to really see the color on the bird.

It has the grapefruit body shape of a Long-billed and lacks the bright pattern of a Short-billed. To me the grapefruit body is only reliable while the bird is feeding.

Here is a juvenile Short-billed.  The Pacific version of Short-billed has the least amount of pattern in the tertials and greater coverts out of the three subspecies.

This gull on the left had me wondering what it was.  The incoming feathers on the back looked dark.  When it flew I could gain no more information.  It was so worn and faded , I could not see any pattern in the wing.  The tail was light brown, that is, what was left of it..

It looked small for a Herring Gull, but could not go anywhere else based on bill and head.

I thought third-cycle Herring Gull?  The long wings are an issue.  In the fog, the legs looked  pinkish, but maybe not.

It was pointed out to me that it is the larger race of a California Gull.

The flats had 15 dowitchers  (13 Short-billed), 45 Least Sandpipers and 4 Greater Yellowlegs.

After a trip to Costco for hotdogs (Huck was hungry as well) and a quick trip to the airport to see nothing but mud, I waited for the high tide at 3 pm so I could wander the river beach.

Still very foggy, maybe thickest of the day,  my first bird was a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper.

On thing to look for on Baird's are the long wings.  They are so long, they cross at the back end of the bird.

Often the cross is not symmetric, so look carefully.

The birds also have a very oval body shape, they look flat on top and bottom.

Shorebirds do not always follow the shape in the field guide.  This Baird's was obviously fat and round. It must have stuffed itself on tasty bugs.

Flock of Baird's.

The beach was littered with resting Western Sandpipers.  This Least on the left was very large compared to the normal Least you see.

Semipalmated Plover, Baird's Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper.

The bird on the left had a smaller sharp pointed bill compared to the normal Western (but I thought within range)  It had a gray nape with a nice rufous back . The line between gray and rufous was very sharp.  I noticed the longer primaries. Rufous on the coverts and some tertials. White edged back and scaps.  And note the dark smudge on side of breast.  I did my best not to cause bird to move, they deserve the rest and not cater to an eager birder. Little Stint?

My reference I use to study these things  (it looked like bird on plate 2 c) :


I should add I did not see the feet.  It never moved, as you can see the sand was soft. 

UPDATE:  So far I have one strike against accepting it as a Little Stint since it lacks a split supercilium and not enough field marks are visible. Plus you would need to see the lack of webbed feet to lock this id. Another strike is the bird is too big compared to the Western, Little Stint are Semipalmated Sandpiper in size or smaller.  And the two white braces are not bold enough.

Shorebirds like to hide in tire tracks during high tide and at night.

Sanderlings running on the beach.  Fat, round, and note the thick bill that tapers to a blunt tip.  I rushed on a photo on-line of a Sanderling, thinking Baird's; but not a real challenge when seen live and next to each other.

Sanderling and Western Sandpiper.

I want to find a Common Ringed Plover.  None here, funny how peeps look up beach toward the dunes while resting.  I guess foxes come out of the grass rather than the ocean.

Birding at its best on the river beach.  If you go, try high tide.  Walk down the middle of the beach.  Birds will be in dry sand and feeding in surf.  Walk very slowly, They will stay put as long as you are quiet.  Watch in front of you, those blobs of seagrass will have peeps hiding next to them.  I stop to stretch like a runner every so often, amazing how it works.  It relaxes the birds to see you are not stalking them.  Stretch like you are about to run a 100 yd dash.

A huge flock of California Gulls were on the beach.  I scanned them for odd birds.  Nothing seen.  Heermman's Gulls, Westerns and Caspian Terns mixed in. This photo shows a small chunk of the flock.

After a great time at the river beach I headed toward home, jumping on to the ocean beach at Sunset. A Black Turnstone was lost in the fog.

This Pacific Golden-Plover was on beach as well.  The bill is too big for an American.  It had nice gold tones as compared to a Black-bellied.  

I think this is a molting adult.  Pacific do not shed their primaries in their first winter.  So if this was a second-year bird, the primaries would be worn (brownish and worn on edges).  Not all Pacific that look like molting adults are indeed molting adults.  They could be second-year birds that never developed their full adult plumage.  In order to be sure it is a molting adult, you need to verify the wings are not heavily worn.  American Golden-Plover molt their wings their first winter. 

Ruddy Turnstone at the cove was my last shorebird.

This photo was from Pk Lot B mudflats a few weeks ago.  It shows the nice difference between Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs,  The Lesser looks like its neck and head are a tad small for the body.  Bill is uniformly thin. 

I thought I would stick this in at the end for fun.  Bar-tailed Godwit at Westport WA last week on a pelagic..can you spot it?

Thanks much for the visit.

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