Saturday, May 25, 2013

Over Turned Stones, or Something Like That

      I'll explain that post title in a minute, but first, the report and some pics from the BBC outing to Tiscornia and the Whirlpool World HQ grounds. It was our final Tiscornia outing of the spring season, when heat and bugs are usually making us look forward to a break. This year, we looked like we were dressed for the first outings, not the last outing of the year. Mittens, winter hats, and layers yet again. Sigh. We'd better keep an eye on the warbler migration points this summer. If it ever warms up we might still get those warbler fallouts we've been missing all spring!
     Today numbers were low, except for swallows, but we had some high quality bird encounters. Kip found a breeding plumage Franklin Gull on the water on the Silver Beach side of the jetty. A breeding plumage Common Tern and a first year Forster's Tern were with the Caspian Terns on the beach, and gave us great opportunities to compare the differences in structure between these two similar species. (Hint: Forster's have longer legs and bigger bills, in addition to silvery upper wing surfaces, and a whiter breast.)
     Running up and down the beach, sometimes with a little encouragement from a certain human bird dog, were two breeding plumage Ruddy Turnstones, a Semipalmated Sandpiper, and a breeding plumage Dunlin.
One of two Ruddy Turnstones at Tiscornia

     Eventually, the birds felt comfortable enough with us that they relaxed and took turns bathing in the surf.
Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Dunlin tidy up.

Some of the many Caspian Terns we saw this spring at Tiscornia

       When we were finished at Tiscornia, we moved inland for some land birding. At the Whirlpool HQ, there were still several Red-breasted Nuthatches, lots of Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and a couple of Willow Flycatchers.  We were also entertained by some hungry Eastern Kingbirds, who actively fed in the grass without paying much attention to us. Orioles and Warbling Vireos were in the trees around the pond, and our attempts to track down an elusive Willow Flycatcher in the parking lot turned into some really nice looks at a Gray-cheeked Thrush. I don't know about the other members of our group, but I drove home a little sad that the season is drawing to a close, but happy, as always, to have shared it with friends.


        Well, back to the title. Just a reminder before I start. 

Ruddy Turnstone

      My dad has been gone for a long time - he died in 1983, but part of his sometimes strange legacy is that I think of him every time I see a Ruddy Turnstone, or for that matter, any species of Tern. He was alternately mystified by, irritated by, or (rarely) proud of, my devotion to birding. On a good day, he wasn't above teasing me about it. One day, he very seriously asked me if I had read in the newspaper about the terrible tragedy at a seabird breeding colony in Florida.  When I asked him what happened, he told me that a group of fishermen, believing the seabirds competed with their fishing, had staged a raid on the colony and thrown rocks at the nesting seabirds. His timing was perfect, honed by thirty years of life as a standup comic. Just as I was about to explode with outrage, he delivered the punch line deadpan. "Their motto was, 'Leave no tern unstoned.'"  

Bird on.

All photos by Dixie Burkhart