Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Birding Expectations

Expectations are funny things. If you expect a lot, you can be disappointed sometimes. If you don't expect much, you may not try as hard. Since we were here last year, I had an idea of what to look for, and honestly, we've been a bit disappointed, in both the number of species and individuals found so far. The Alabama Birding Trail hasn't always resulted in much. This year's birding festival was last week -- can a week make such a difference? The weather turned cold and extra windy, and I'm not sure if this makes the birds stay put or what. Also, we have stayed on the beach and the coast instead of the inland marshy areas for the most part, so that may make a difference too. We have seen quite a few warblers, but without an expert, all I can do is say - Oh, there's another warbler! Actually identifying them is pretty tough. Same with any smaller shore birds. I recognize the Willets and Sanderlings with confidence, but anything else is just a guess. Maybe sometime I should ask Santa for a $2,000 Swarovski scope...

However, today we did have some pretty nice finds, though not the ones we expected, around Perdido Bay. A terrific boardwalk led over the dunes and I got some real postcard photos. Maybe someday I can make a lot of money selling photos to the gift shops! Dick says this Heron was hiding in the sea oats for fasting and meditation! An Osprey circled us for a while, and I'm learning the tricks with my new camera, so these turned out pretty well. A pod of 8-10 dolphins swam up and down the channel, for some shots I usually don't see.

We've become fascinated with tracks in the sand, both human and otherwise. Today I saw some unusual prints that looked like a really really small car tire tread, but they were under water along the bank. As I looked, a sea shell moved along the bottom, and I realized a hermit crab was in it, making the tracks we saw!

Before leaving this spot on the Birding Trail, we heard some action in the brush and went to investigate, adding a Swamp Sparrow to our life list. The really strange find was a large (robin sized) bird with a yellow belly, and brown and buff stripes on its head. The more I looked, the more I thought it was a Meadow Lark. What do you think? Maybe a juvenile, or just in nonbreeding feathers. How did this guy get to the swamp by a lagoon so close to the ocean? I know Alabama has agricultural areas that would be great for it, but I think he got turned down the wrong road!

1 comment:

KatDoc said...

Yes, that's a non-breeding plumage meadowlark. I thought the bill looked right, but had to look it up to be sure; I only ever see them in their bright breeding colors.

If I'm right about your location, this could be an Eastern or Western species. Just to throw a monkeywrench into the works, my Sibley's says there is a southwestern population of Eastern Meadowlark called the Lilian's.