Friday, December 23, 2011

Black-bellied Plover and Western Sandpiper, Plum Island, MA

A boardwalk leading out to an Atlantic beach on Plum Island, MA, 11/11/2011.
Plum Island has a varied beautiful habitat to attract many types of birds, but shore and water birds specifically find this area a fantastic place to live or as a stopover on their migration routes. I particularly was hoping to find a Piping Plover, which calls Plum Island its summer home, knowing that by the middle of November they may already have left for their winter grounds.
Waves incoming, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
After searching several beaches, searching for some shorebirds, about all I observed were Herring Gulls so I turned my attention to the waves crashing onto the beach. While I was taking pictures of the Atlantic waves,  I noticed a shore bird appear near a salt water puddle. Its short bill suggested to me that it was a Plover and not a Sandpiper.
Black-bellied Plover, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
It wasn't a Piping Plover, but it still was a new a new bird to add to my Life List, a Black-bellied Plover in its nonbreeding plumage. These Plovers are very similar to the American Golden Plover, but this bird's (Above) belly was too white to be that of an American Golden.
Black-bellied Plover,  Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Black-bellied Plovers are found inside the Arctic Circle in the northern shores of Alaska and Canada during the summer months. It would have been cool to see this Plover's breeding plumage as males sport a black breast, throat and face set off with white under the tail and along the sides of the neck that run up along to its forehead.  In its nonbreeding plumage, they lose their contrasting white and black feathers and become more drab (Above).  Their undersides become whiter, but the rest of thier bodies,  become more brown, with streaked breast and a white eyebrow. They will spend their winter months along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, which of course, is where I saw this guy.

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