Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beach Birding

Ouch! Ooouch! EEECH! Now I understand why this area is so well known for its shelling. I've never seen so many shells in one place before! The beach is pretty narrow, but I did of lot of yelping and jumping to get from the chair to the sand. Instead of walking for hours, we decided to just sit still and let the birds come to us, and they did. I sat in the shade of the umbrella to actually read the Stokes book on shorebirds, and I think it will make a difference in my struggle with "shorebird anxiety."
Lillian Stokes asks the key quesion, what is a shorebird? She covers four different families (which I won't try to spell in Latin here), noting that "These birds are grouped together because of structural similarities in the characteristics of their skull, backbones, and syrinx. Of course, none of these characteristics are apparent to the casual observer." (Yeah, right.) She then lists these characteristics, concluding that "You'll know one when you see one." Sometimes these birds are seen at the sea shore, and something they aren't. Yet they do not include birds such as gulls and terns that are always found at the shore. Willets are pretty easy to recognize, especially when they take flight. I didn't realize what speedy birds they are either, but the wing pattern is unforgettable.
The little Sanderlings are always some of my favorites, as they run down to the sea and back. They remind me of an album I liked in college called "The Sea." I can't recall who made it, just the lyrics about going down to the sea and back.
The Ruddy Turnstones turned over lots of shells since there weren't any stones on the beach today. If I ever come back to Florida during the breeding season, I'll have to learn many of these birds again, since I've only seen them in the winter.
A juvenile Royal Tern followed the others around, begging for food. The adults just ignored him.
I love to watch Pelicans flying in formation. Have you ever noticed that they flap up and down in unison? Well, for the most part they do. That guy at the end of the line is a little off beat.
At least you have a chance to spot and follow the Pelicans as they fly along the length of the beach. Gulls, such as these Laughing Gulls come in and drop quickly to the ground.
When they gather on the beach, it's time for a good preening, checking each feather, and stretching wings and legs. Then tuck your beak under your wing for a quick nap.
Well, you can try to nap until the beach bully comes up, squawking at all the other gulls.
As we waited for the tram back to the parking lot at Lovers Key State Park, an Osprey called from a snag before she started to eat her freshly caught fish. See the necklace of brown feathers? That makes this a female. An Eagle tried to steal her fish, and I watched them fly off, but they separated before I could get off the tram and take a photo.
At the end of the afternoon, we left to meet Dick's former boss for dinner, but we agreed that this was a pleasant and relaxing day.

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