Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dunlin & Greater Yellowlegs, Plum Island, MA

Vibrant colors on the Pines Trail,  Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
My last few posts dealt with Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers, but I also saw another two shorebirds during my day on Plum Island, Massachusetts. The Greater Yellowlegs (Below) is a shorebird that I have seen in the Midwest, and is also found coast to coast throught Canada in the summer, and keeps itself along both coasts during the winter.
A Greater Yellowlegs, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
But it was the second shorebird that I noticed, which was separated from the other sandpipers probing the beach as a collected flock. This shore bird appeared out of nowhere. I was in the same general spot for several minutes and was surprised I didn't see it before. As I took its picture, I was thinking it seemed a bit larger than the Semipalmated Sandpiper of the similar brownish color. It certainly wasn't as white as the Sanderlings. I turned my attention back to the main flock, then looked for the lone shorebird again, but it was nowhere in sight. I was lucky to get that one photo (Below) because I didn't see it again. While sorting out my photos at day's end, I came to the image of this bird and upon seeing this shorebird with its long curved bill, I confirmed it was neither a Sanderling nor a Semipalmated.
This lone Dunlin appeared for a brief moment near a flock of sanderlings and Semipalmated Sandpipers,  Sandy Point, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Again, because of my lack of identification skills of the subtle differences between many Sandpipers, I needed to check my guidebook (The Sibley Field Guide...)to identify this one. The long curved bill and the geographic area narrowed down my choices to Western Sandpipers, Dunlins, and Stilt Sandpipers. It is possible that all three of these could be found along the north Atlantic coast during their fall migration. However, it would be rare for the Western Sandpiper to be seen north of New York during the winter but certainly could be seen as it is migrating through. I decided that the bird I saw was larger than a Western Sandpiper which would be in between the size of Sanderlings and Semipalmated SP's. Stilt Sandpipers would be the right size and could also be migrating through, but their legs are yellow, so I dismissed these. Dunlins would be the most common of the three as it is a winter resident along the entire Atlantic Coast as far north as Maine. and its size and colorization seemed about right being slightly larger than a Sanderling and much larger than a Semipalmated and a Western, but the same genral color and markings. I was excited that I could add a Dunlin to my Life List (#340), and wished I paid more attention to it to get a better quality photograph.

Tomorrow and the next couple of weekends I'll feature photos of birds that I found along the Rocky Atlantic shores of Rockport and Glauster, Mass.

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