Friday, October 31, 2008

More at the Shore

Back to Dauphin Island today, with a side trip to Bayou La Batre. We managed to find the places we had visited with the Bird Fest last year, but did not see the same birds, missing American Pelicans, Oyster Catchers, Avocets, and Ibis of any color. Long sessions with Lillian Stokes' Beginners Guide to Shorebirds, with serious page flipping and second guessing, comparing the (to us) identical birds, led to some exciting conclusions that did not always hold up when I enlarged the photos I took from a long distance. Dauphin Island's public beach on the west end of the island had the most shorebirds along its sandbars and small tidal pools. We think we saw Dunlin, Solitary Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plover. We know there were Willets, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones.

Great Blue Herons sometimes stand in the water, and sometimes meditate in the sea oats on shore. We saw one bird doing a dance in the shallow pool, actually chasing the fish! Never saw a Heron do that before, we mused. As I looked at the photos, however, I thought this bird did not really look like a heron, despite the long legs and neck. The bill was not yellow on the bottom, there were no stripes on the head, and it just looked smaller than usual. Could it be a Little Blue Heron instead? I had just wished we could see a Reddish Egret sometime, and hallelujah, the field guide illustrated this Egret "dancing while feeding!" That has to be it! Whoo-hoo! Another Lifer for us!
The raptors did not let us down today either. This Red Tailed Hawk perched in a high snag and posed in the breeze. A Harrier soared behind a tree, landing for a few seconds, then going on to more important places. His white belly shone in the setting sun, and if only he had lingered a few more seconds, I would have had a great shot.

We are leaving for Kentucky in the morning, so let me take one last chance to rant on about people who insist on building houses on sandbars. West Dauphin Island is just that - a perfectly flat sandbar. No trees, no dune grass, nothing to stop the wind and waves during a storm. Yet idiots continue to build houses there. Today we tried to get to that end of the island, and had to give up. They have snow in upstate New York. The sand in Alabama looks like big snow drifts and digging equipment shovels it up and big trucks haul it God knows where. The only sign of progress was all the empty lots with For Sale signs before them. Maybe folks are finally figuring out that is isn't very smart to build on a sandbar! Duhh!

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