Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another shorebird day.

The weather was mostly(!!) sunny, but windy. By the way, the temperatures up here have ranged from the high-30s at night to the mid-40s during the day, occasionally edging towards 50 when the sun shines and the wind dies down (rare). As usual, while most of the island basked in sunshine, Mount Moffet kept his hat on and occasionally dispensed a sprinkle or two.

A good day for walking.

As we rounded the south end of the Sandy Cove Bluffs, heading towards Sweeper Cove, a pair of shorebirds flushed from a roadside ditch and flew off. We could not tell what they were.

At Sweeper Cove this morning, Barb saw an all-dark alcid that looked peculiar. I quickly got on it and we determined it was an immature Tufted Puffin. In all of our trips up here we had never seen any young puffins, so this was new. The photo below is heavily enhanced due to poor lighting conditions at the time.

Young Tufted Puffin, Sweeper Cove, 09/20/12

What looks like a white wingbar is actually the young bird’s wing feathers still growing out of their casings.

We headed down to Finger Creek. We had no new birds there, but saw a lot of dead or dying salmon, as the salmon run was coming to a close.

Dead Salmon in Finger Creek, 09/20/12

While I was hiking up the stream, Barb witnessed and documented the following.

Bald Eagle poop, Finger Creek, 09/20/12

We returned to Sweeper Cove to see if the young Puffin was still around in better lighting conditions. No luck. As we headed back up towards the Sandy Cove Bluffs, I joked that we would have another chance to identify those shorebirds that flew off previously (as if they would return!).

Yep, they did! They were Pectoral Sandpipers.

Pectoral Sandpiper, near Sweeper Cove, 09/20/12

We headed up to the Elfin Forest to walk the small ponds there in hopes the Baikal Teal had returned. No luck. I also walked down to some small ponds over the hill from there in the direction the bird had flown last week. No luck.

When we got to Clam Lagoon, Barb dropped me off at the southern end so I could walk the flats. There were no shorebirds along the marsh edge, so I walked over towards the peninsula.

Frank walking the Clam Lagoon Flats, 09/20/12

As I walked out on the peninsula, I saw a bird feeding in the water way out at the tip. Most of the birds I usually see along this stretch are beach-feeders, so I was intrigued as to what it might be. I did not have my scope and the bird was too far for binos. So I took some long-range photos and started working my way towards it.

Shortly thereafter, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper walked out of the reeds, saw me and flew away. I continued up the beach. Then, as if on cue, a little parade of shorebirds walked out from the edge of the reeds and fed and preened casually along the shoreline. Eventually there were 4 Western Sandpipers, one Red-necked stint, one Pectoral Sandpiper, and a Sanderling. As is usually my experience on the peninsula, the birds were not wary and allowed close-enough approach or photos.

Pectoral Sandpiper being followed by Red-necked Stint, Clam Lagoon, 09/20/12

I continued out towards the tip where the mystery shorebird was still feeding, with the little flock rambling ahead of me. As I got closer, it looked like a Rock Sandpiper! What the heck was he doing out here feeding in the water instead of being back on the rocky shore where he belonged? I was hoping for something much more exotic…

As I was returning to Barb, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper made a second appearance, again flying off too quickly for a photo.

I returned to the truck and we continued around the lagoon. At Seal Rock Cove, we added Ruddy Turnstone to the day’s list.

Ruddy Turnstone, Clam Lagoon, 09/20/12

This made for an 8-shorebird day (Black Oystercatcher at Sweeper Cove not mentioned above).

One week down, one to go.