Monday, February 20, 2017

Lousy birding

I am a lousy birder. I love to watch them; I attempt, mostly unproductively, to photograph them; and I can't tell them apart without a book in hand. Oh, gulls are gulls, peeps are peeps, lbbs are lbbs. And bald eagles are bald eagles; those I know, even when they're a speck on the horizon. And I can find a coot halfway across the marsh in a flock of mallards. But a peep dashing about on a tide flat, or chasing the waves? They're peeps. No-name brand peeps.

So I take photos and compare them, point by point, against the photos in my bird book, and then against Cornell's All About Birds descriptions. "Ah," I say, "so those were sanderlings!"

But next time, against an impossible background, with little brown specks fleeing me and my camera, I can't distinguish them again. Just peeps.

These, after having gone through the slow process of identification, I think are black turnstones.

Black turnstones, Oyster Bay. They've seen me before I saw them, and are already running away.

And they're off!

A turnstone against the brown and black mud of Oyster Bay is a different bird altogether than a turnstone in the air. On the ground, they blend in, except for the flash of white belly. In flight, they show a dramatic white/brown/black pattern.

Zooming in, with the background faded out.

Bold wing pattern visible in flight, produced by white feathers at the base of the leading edge of the wing, a white wing stripe, and a white lower back.
White tail with black terminal band. (Cornell)

The black terminal band on the tail is visible while they're on foot; flying, the white tail is longer, and shows as a white terminal band.

Location helps for id purposes; the black turnstones are supposed to prefer noisy beaches.

In winter, found along high-energy rocky shorelines, on beaches near rocky coasts, and on jetties and piers. (Cornell)

Oyster Bay is anything but high-energy, but just across the rock breakwater, waves pound the stones. And in here, in the lagoon at low tide, they find a banquet prepared with their favourite treats: barnacles, mussels, crustaceans, with a side dressing of rotting plant material. Once the water comes back, they'll go back to the open coast, leaving the bay to the mallards, geese, and wigeons.

2 comments:

  1. My main problem here is the LBJs (little brown jobs) which is almost all of the smaller honey-eaters and fly-catchers.

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    1. "LBJs". What I've been calling lbbs (little brown birds). Here, they're sparrows and wrens. And juncos, when they're moving too fast.

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