Sunday, August 25, 2013

Red Knot and LBDO! - 24 Aug 2013

Andrew Sturgess reported a Red Knot this morning so I was pumped to get back out to Cell 3 at Pt. Mouillee.  Starting out at Mouillee Creek I rode the Middle Causeway eastward toward the Banana Unit.

As I reached the Humphries Unit I spotted one of six Snowy Egrets close to shore.  The five other birds were farther back in the sedges, but this one was close enough to approach and digiscope.  The sun was side-lighting it quite a bit, so I had to wait until it turned just right in order to capture its yellow lores, black bill, black legs and yellow feet.   The amount of yellowing on the legs suggest a juvenile bird, as a nonbreeding adult would show yellow extending along the back of the legs only.

As I was riding toward the Banana I stopped for an approaching vehicle.  Jim Fowler was driving Tex Wells and Dave Washington back to their cars.  We chatted a moment, and he told me of the Red Knot showing good looks in Cell 3.  So I continued on quickly to Cell 3.

I found Darlene Friedman enjoying the shorebirds from the NW portion of the mudflats. But I also saw Pete and Noreen Kryluk farther toward the south end, so I headed down to say hello to them after exchanging greetings and information with Darlene.

I spent a few minutes chatting with Pete and Noreen and showed them some of the many Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and Lesser Yellowlegs in the area.  The American Avocet was out in its usual location and too far to digiscope.  But as I was scanning the far mudflat shoreline I spotted a pair of Long-billed Dowitchers foraging.  No sooner did I grab the camera that they took off for the south end of the cell.  The basic plumage and hunched backs were unmistakeable, though.

As we walked back toward Darlene I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone (non-breeding adult) on the mudflat and pointed it out to the Kryluks.  I then finally spotted the Red Knot foraging among dozens of Stilt Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers.

The gray, dowitcher-sized knot showed the distinct gray feathers and white fringing that looks like fish-scales to me, indicating a 1st-winter bird.  It was foraging in shallow water, and hardly ever lifting its head out of the water.  But I could see the distinct white broad supercillium and medium-long black straight bill when it finally paused enough to breathe.

Jim soon returned and he and Darlene headed out.  I decided to head off toward the south end of Cell 3 to look for the Long-billed Dowitchers, so I said my goodbyes to Pete and Noreen.  A number of shorebirds were on the drying mud as I walked, and I was able to make out one Baird's Sandpiper at a distance.  An American Golden Plover was out on the mud near the Avocet, and photos of that bird would have to wait.

I found the Long-billed Dowitchers very close to the south shoreline, and was able to set up the scope only 20' away from the birds.  Note the hunch-backs on these birds relative to the more streamlined profile of the Short-billed Dowitchers nearby.  Close examination of their backs revealed a couple of colored feathers still poking out beneath the fresh basic feathers.

Short-billed Dowitcher profile
Six of the Wilson's Phalaropes were still in the area, and several birds were also less than 20' away from me.  They provided some wonderful portraits.

Not to be outdone the Stilt Sandpipers were also posing for portraits.

With the sun dropping below the tree line I headed back toward the bike.  A Baltimore Oriole was foraging near the shoreline but would not hold still for photos.  I did stop long enough to grab a couple pics of the Ruddy Turnstone in the last light of the evening.  I would then spot a possible 3rd Long-billed Dowitcher out on the mudflats more toward the north end of the mudline.  A funny looking Dunlin was also present, showing mid-molt and spotted flanks and belly. The Red Knot could not be relocated so I headed back to the car.

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