Not Too Cold for this Bird

The thermometer read 40 degrees and a stiff breeze blew from the north, churning up the mud at the bottom of the North Basin and changing its usual face from grey or blue to cafe-au-lait in places. The resident tribe of Coots sat hunkered down on the ripples at the south end.  A handful of Mallards took advantage of the incoming waves to feed on their cargo.  A gull or two, scattered Bufflehead and Goldeneye, and the recently arrived Turkey Vulture, braved the chill air.  Nothing much else stirred in or near the water.  Except this little feathered bobbletail that I almost missed because it wove in among the rocks at the water’s edge.  It’s a Spotted Sandpiper.  This one’s a nonbreeding adult now, but it probably was a breeding bird not long ago, because it still has some spots visible on its breast.  They fade away as the winter season progresses.   I’ve seen another one earlier that had no spots left at all, and another with spots that were barely visible.  What makes them easily identifiable, once you know, is the constant tail bobbing motion that they do.  There’s a short video below.  Read more about these birds here and here — they have complicated and unusual gender roles.  Hint: females rule!  


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