South End Birds

Black Oystercatcher

The waterbird action late Tuesday afternoon lay on the south side of the North Basin, along the Virginia Street extension.  I saw there the familiar Great Egret with its sidekick the Snowy Egret, a scattering of maybe six Black Oystercatchers with their beaks glowing neon in the slanting sun, a Willet or two, half a dozen Mallards, two kinds of Sandpipers, and a clutch of almost a dozen Black Turnstones.  I hadn’t seen the Turnstones since March.  They pecked at the exposed barnacles like woodpeckers at a tree.  I recorded the action on a short video, below. To that I added a take of another Turnstone bathing in the waves with the same rhythmic energy as its mate pecked at the barnacles.  It’s a good thing these birds are small.  If they were huge, with that sustained energy and that pecking force, they could destroy cities. 

Another energetic bird worked nearby.  Brownish-grey on top, white below, smaller than the Turnstone, and solitary, this one looked for loose bits of protein in crevices.  I had trouble identifying it because so many of these small shore birds (“peeps”) look the same.  The giveaway clue here was the bird’s action.  It constantly dipped its rear end. That, plus the white eye ring with the dark streak, marked it as Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage, in other words, without prominent spots.  I made a little video so you could see its constant bobbing motion, below. 

Not far away strode a similar bird, but with a shorter beak and dark legs; this was a Least Sandpiper.  A few days ago I had seen a flock of these near the Schoolhouse Creek outfall, but today I saw only this individual and one other.  And, notably, no Coots at all.  What is it with Coots?  Here today, gone tomorrow. 

Spotted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper


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