Monday, September 24, 2012

What a joy it is — birding in 40 mph winds!

The weather was as predicted today, mostly cloudy, rain showers, and 30-40 mph winds gusting up to 60! Trying to stand outside the truck was difficult enough, but trying to steady your binoculars was impossible. Even inside the truck, the shaking often made it hard to stabilize.

However, we persevered…

Still no outflow from the fish factory, so we headed up to Clam Lagoon. The three Emperor Geese were still there.

Emperor Geese, Clam Lagoon, 09/24/12

Emperor Geese, Clam Lagoon, 09/24/12

We had five turnstones fly by and a Rock Sandpiper on the road. We flushed a Pectoral near the seawall. At the Seawall, the surf was up!

Clam Lagoon Seawall, 09/24/12

As we come down the hill near Adak National Forest, we always scan Landing Lights Beach. This time we saw two shorebirds flying down the beach, landing about halfway down towards the Landing Lights. We drove down to a cut in the sand dune, and I walked out to get a better look. The birds were farther down the beach, so I started walking towards them. Just then, the heavens opened up and it started to rain — remember this is with 30-40 mph wind! As I continued down the beach, getting soaking wet, I finally got close enough to get photos in order to try to identify them. At one point, the wind blew my hood back and off came my hat, rolling quickly towards the surf. I raced after it and got it just before the water! Back to the camera. I took as many pictures as I could and then just couldn’t take it anymore and returned to the truck. We headed back to the house, where a quick stint in the dryer took care of my jacket. As it was drying, I took a quick look at the photos and determined that they were just Pectorals. So back out we went. All of that for Pectorals???

We headed up to Contractor’s Marsh and three Long-billed Dowitchers flushed from beside the road and flew back obligingly for photos.

Long-billed Dowitchers, Contractor’s Marsh, 09/24/12

Long-billed Dowitcher, Contractor’s Marsh, 09/24/12

We continued around the marsh and suddenly heard a thwap, thwap, thwap coming from the tires. We got out and and saw a piece of hard rubber embedded into the front left tire with a nail. I pulled the rubber off, leaving the nail, and headed back into town. We called Cindy (from whom we rented the truck) and she directed us to the city garage. There, “Mugs” and his crew quickly fixed our tire so we could get back to birding. While there, I noticed a big freshly- painted sign (at least the background for a sign) and inquired as to what it was for — I had a pretty good idea! Mugs said it was the new Adak National Forest sign! So, the missing frame was a part of replacing the sign after all.

We went back out, but found nothing new for the day. When we got back to the house, I downloaded the photos and looked through them. When I got to the Landing Lights shorebirds, they began to look like two different species.

The one that I had gotten close-ups (relatively) of, was a definite Pectoral. However, the other one looked browner and had what appeared to be a more decurved bill. Unfortunately, that bird had disappeared over a sand ledge as I was photographing the Pectoral, and that is when I gave up and headed back. At the time, through the driving rain-spattered binos, I thought the two birds were the same. After consulting with Isaac, I now believe the second bird was (is?) another Pectoral.

Pectoral Sandpiper (right) and ??, Landing Lights Beach, 09/24/12

The triplist is at 51.