A Forgotten Post

I found a post I’d written in May in my drafts folder and realized I had never published it. So here it is, after quite a delay. It’ll be another seven months before I see these birds again, but in the meantime I though I should share these photos which I took at the slough across the road from my house.

I remember that the day was beautiful and warm. Shorebird migration was in progress and the mudflats at the slough were full of shorebirds. I sat for over an hour watching them feeding, preening, and taking the occasional rest.

A Killdeer and Semipalmated Plover,IMG_8586 There was only one Killdeer in the mix,IMG_8588 There was a solitary Lesser Yellowlegs too,IMG_8667 Along with the plovers were some Pectoral Sandpipers,IMG_8655

A Semipalmated Sandpiper,IMG_8622

My favourite part of the afternoon was watching the Semipalmated Plovers running up and down the mudflats. They are beautiful little birds, but difficult to photograph as they are constantly moving.

I got down and dirty with the plovers because I was lying on my stomach trying to get eye-level shots,IMG_8608 IMG_8612 IMG_8616

This is one of my favourite pictures from the afternoon,IMG_8631  IMG_8650IMG_8629Among the adults was an immature plover,IMG_8638

Two adults on the left and an immature on the right,IMG_8636

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

My lifer — European Golden Plovers in France,


More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

A Shorebird Kind of Day!

Early Friday afternoon, I took my camera, scope, and binoculars with me to the slough across the road from our house. I was hoping to find some shorebirds feeding in the reeds and along the mudflats.

As I got close to the mudflats, I could see two American Avocets, three Killdeer, a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers, eight Lesser and five Greater Yellowlegs. I set up my scope and was looking closely at A large flock of Long-billed Dowitchers, when [as I was looking at them I noticed nine birds that looked different. I then realized that those nine birds were Stilt Sandpipers. I also was able to find two Willets, six Wilson’s Phalaropes, and seven Least Sandpipers.

I spent almost an hour looking at the shorebirds and the various ducks on the slough, but had to get home as my mom and I were leaving for town to deliver eggs.

Upon our return, I walked back out to the slough, but this time I walked through the woods to the east end of the slough. There were very few birds in the woods, but I saw my “first of season” Least Flycatcher feeding at the top of some poplars.

When I walked out of the woods I could see that there were more dowitchers feeding on the north side of the slough. I looked through my scope and was able to see very clearly more than 20 Red-necked Phalaropes feeding with the dowitchers, and also a pair of Cinnamon Teals. I then looked to the left and saw two avocet-sized birds with bright pink legs, and a black-and-white body — the birds were Black-necked Stilts! I’ve seen Black-necked Stilts on this slough before, but they’re not very common for this area, so I was so happy to see these beautiful birds again.

I wasn’t able to get any decent photos of the Black-necked Stilts or Red-necked Phalaropes as they were too far away and the light was very low.

In total, I was able to find 12 species of shorebirds on Friday: American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Stilt Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Least Sandpiper, and Solitary Sandpiper.

Least Sandpipers preening,


Two Willets and a Lesser Yellowlegs,



A female Wilson’s Phalarope,


Stilt Sandpiper,


Long-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers,


American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Stilt Sandpipers,


Review: The Shorebird Guide


Looking through books online at Amazon.ca last month, my mother found a copy of The Shorebird Guide by Michael O’Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson. She remembered that I had a copy of Richard Crossley’s The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds and thought I would enjoy this, especially because I came home from YOW talking about the difficulty some of us had identifying shorebirds.

Even though it’s not a new book, published in 2006 by Houghton Mifflin, it’s new to me and incredibly useful for identifying North American shorebirds so I thought I would review it here.

In a nutshell, if you are having trouble identifying shorebirds or want to brush up on rusty skills, this is the book for you. Photographer Richard Crossley believes in the use of pattern recognition, or what he calls General Impression of Size and Shape (GISS, according to some a World War II term for identifying aircraft) over field marks, and uses photographs to help readers improve their abilities to identify various species. Some birders call this use of pattern recognition gestalt (a German word) or “jizz”, a Briticism popularized by Thomas Coward in his 1922 book, Bird Haunts and Nature Memories; there’s an interesting Australian article online, “The Etymology of Jizz”. From the preface:

When advanced birders look at a flock of shorebirds, they are often able to identify the vast majority of birds with a quick binocular scan. How do they do this? Experts have an easier time identifying shorebirds because they are using an easier identification method. Instead of skipping straight to plumage details, they base their identifications, first and foremost, on relative size, structure, behavior, and voice. They start with the basics. All these characteristics are far less variable than plumage details and are therefore an easier, more reliable starting point for identification. In fact, virtually any shorebird can be identified solely on the basis of these fundamental characteristics. That’s not to say that plumage details are not important to identification — they very often are. But in order to get off on the right track, the identification process must begin with the fundamentals. …

By simply focusing on those characters that are least variable and most visible in the field, not only will your identifications become more accurate, but you’ll also identify a higher percentage of what you see.

The book, with almost 500 pages, is divided into two sections, Species Photos (with full captions and range maps) and Species Accounts. The Species Photos section is further subdivided into “Domestic Species” (48 of them) and “Rarities and Regional Specialties” (44 rare, regional, or “accidental” species, including hybrids and aberrant species). Altogether the guide includes more than 850 color photographs of shorebirds — in flight, in mixed flocks, displaying a variety of behaviors, and differences in plumages — by Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson, as well as Mike Danzenbaker, Arthur Morris, and others.

When studying shorebirds or any species of birds, learning about bird topography is very important in understanding how the feathers are arranged and placed. As an example of the incredible detail in the guide, here’s one of the photos from the topography section,


Each North American species account includes information on status, behavior, size, structure, and a range map. Many species have more than four pages of photographs of shorebirds in different stages of molt, close-ups, in flight, and from a distance. The other 44 species accounts don’t have range maps, and these species (the rare, regional, or accidental) aren’t covered as thoroughly. And, for some species such as the Whimbrel and the Willet, the guide demonstrates how to distinguish each subspecies.

One of the features of the book I really like and will no doubt find useful for a long time is the last page featuring 47 silhouettes by Michael O’Brien of the domestic shorebird species (all but the American Woodcock). You can test your knowledge on the species, and the answers are found on the page listed beneath the silhouette.

Now that I have a scope, I’ll be able to get better looks at local shorebirds, and this guide will help me identify them much more easily. The guide is comprehensive and the pictures are beautiful and clear, so it’s a great book for both beginning and advanced birders. With all the pages and photographic plates, it’s a pretty heavy book to carry around in the field, but definitely deserves a place in your backpack or bag if you know you’re going to need help at the shore. I highly recommend this field guide!

You can buy it from your favorite bookseller or Amazon.com.

Shore Birds and a Life Bird

I went out this morning at 6 am to look for some new birds at the lake behind our house. I was able to find four species of shorebirds: two Short-billed Dowitchers, five Solitary Sandpipers, and one Willet. The most exciting birds were about 30 Semipalmated Sandpipers, because that is sandpiper a life bird for me.

I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked, but the light was pretty bad so early in the morning that there was no point in taking too many pictures.

Semipalmated Sandpiper,

Short-billed Dowitcher,

Three Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding,

Happy for Shorebirds

I went out yesterday evening to the water across the road in a neighbor’s pasture, to see if I could track down and identify any shorebirds, which are starting to migrate. After a while I found three species, though my finds were not what most would consider very worthwhile. Even though I have seen the Lesser Yellowlegs and the Marbled Godwit before, I was very happy with my sighting and the photo opportunities.

Here is my favorite picture, since it captures all three species of birds I saw that day,

I believe that this bird in the two photos below is a Short-billed Dowitcher prairie subspecies. If anyone could please help me with the identification of this dowitcher, I would greatly appreciate it,

A Marbled Godwit,

Lesser Yellowlegs,