Shorebirds and Friends

Shorebirds continue to migrate through the coastal marshes and beaches. I photographed seven different species in one location. And I would not be surprised if I missed a species or two. Some species look very much alike. Also, these are very active birds that move around a lot.

The smallest sandpipers that we see are referred to as “Peeps” because of their size. The most common one we see is the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The name comes from the partial webbing on its feet.

The Least Sandpiper is another Peep. It is slightly smaller than the the Semipalmated Sandpiper and has yellow-green legs. The legs are the only way I know that this is a Least Sandpiper.

Shorebird #3 is the Pectoral Sandpiper. It’s a medium sized sandpiper and is noticeably larger than the Semipalmated Sandpiper mooning me in this photo. The field marks are the leg color and the rather blunt bill.

The Willet, #4, breeds here and is larger than the other species we observed. This is one surrounded by Semipalmated Sandpipers and a Pectoral Sandpiper in the background.

Numbers 5 and 6 are together in this photo. The bird in front is a Stilt Sandpiper. Behind it is a Short-billed Dowitcher, who has anything but a short bill.

The Greater Yellowlegs makes 7.

It’s been a tough year for a summer resident shorebird. The Piping Plover colony in the southern tip of Plum Island was battered by a big storm at the beginning of the summer. And then it was raided by coyotes. But these are tough little guys and the state biologist who monitors them says that there are chicks at last. We didn’t see any on our last two visits but they are invisible unless they are moving around. This adult is not dancing. They stick out one foot and vibrate it against the wet sand to get invertebrates to show themselves. It’s a bit of a show!

The Least Terns also had a rough time but they have recovered as well. I posted a picture of a chick a couple of posts back. Now we are seeing the “teenagers”. One looked around before settling down for a nap. Another was taking a little stroll.

Meanwhile, the adults were fishing in the sound. I caught one in its dive just before it hit the water.

Gulls prey on chicks so a Great Black-backed Gull is not a welcome visitor on the beach. These are the largest gulls. I watched one chase an Osprey a few years ago, trying to get it to drop its fish.

And speaking of Ospreys, one was also fishing in the sound.

I’ll keep tracking the chicks as they grow and watching for more shore birds.

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