Winter Shorebirds

Winter Shorebirds

Last week fog was forecast for several mornings so Bill Maroldo and I headed out early Wednesday to the Texas City Dike. The White Pelicans are starting to arrive, and we also wanted to look for Long Billed Curlews. Since the fog was supposed to burn off by noon, we planned to come back early and grill some chicken. The day was just an average early Winter day for SE Texas with the high in the low 70s F.

The fog had lifted by the time we arrived at the coast and the White Pelicans were too far from shore. It was turning into a disappointingly bright, sunny day after all. We followed a Great Blue Heron around the rocks for a while and then found some nice little shorebirds at a big puddle on the beach. We parked the truck and set up our crates and tripods with the sun behind us. 

Strutting Semipalmated Plover Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G  f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 400; tripod

Strutting Semipalmated Plover

Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G  f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 400; tripod

This cute guy is a young Semipalmated Plover. There were a dozen or so scurrying around this shallow puddle. They run-stop-run-stop and then the whole group will fly up, swirl around a couple of times and then settle back down for more run-stop-run action. This is an example of the non-breeding plumage they wear while wintering all along the Gulf Coast. 

Snowy Plover Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 500; tripod

Snowy Plover

Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 500; tripod

Mixed in with the Semipalmated Plovers was this tiny guy, a Snowy Plover. He is much more pale and has gray legs and a solid black stubby bill.

Piping Plover with tag. Always report banded birds! Photo by William Maroldo - Nikon D810 with 500mm telephoto

Piping Plover with tag. Always report banded birds!

Photo by William Maroldo - Nikon D810 with 500mm telephoto

We saw a Piping Plover with a yellow leg tag; they are in decline as their nests are on the bare beach and often disturbed. They don't nest here; they are only Winter visitors. You can see he looks a lot like the Snowy Plover, but has yellow legs. The breeding adults will have an orange base to the dark bill and darker neck rings.

The above photo is Bill's; none of mine showed the tag clearly. 

Update: We reported the sighting to the USGS and Bill received this certificate just this morning. This tiny fluff-ball survived growing up and flew here from North Dakota!

Isn't that amazing? We see a lot of banded birds, and always report them, Hmmm.. maybe I should do an adventure on that subject.

Non-breeding Dunlin Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 500; tripod

Non-breeding Dunlin

Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/7.1  1/1600 sec ISO 500; tripod

I took about 100 photos of this non-breeding Dunlin bathing and preening. Later in the winter we will see them with russet breeding plumage before they take off for Arctic breeding grounds.  He was right in front of me so I had a front row seat to all his actions. There was a nice Marbled Godwit in with the small shorebirds, but the light was wrong most of the time.

We soon packed up our gear and moved on to the area called the breakers.

Wing drying Neoptropical Cormorant Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.31/1250 sec ISO 640; hand held

Wing drying Neoptropical Cormorant

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.31/1250 sec ISO 640; hand held

I have shown you photos of pelicans perched on these old rusty metal breakers before. Today there were only Neotropic Cormorants in the bright sun. This one is showing signs of breeding plumage; the white tufts on each side of his head. I didn't set up the tripod or big lens but hand-held my 70-400 G2 for these shots.

Sibling argument ? Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.31/1600 sec ISO 640; hand held

Sibling argument ?

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.31/1600 sec ISO 640; hand held

These two youngsters seemed to be having a bit of a territorial squabble. Or, they may just like fussing with each other. 

The light was harsh and there was a group of fishermen down a ways enjoying loud country music while they fished in the surf. I like country music fine, but not when I am out communing with nature. 

We decided to go back to the big puddle and as we approached we spied the earlier Marbled Godwit walking along the shore. Bill parked the truck and got out to follow some Avocets, but I just used his big 500 mm lens braced on the window of the truck. I had a great view and got so many photos of the Godwit I will have to save them for another adventure. 

Marbled Godwit in the surf Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.31/1250 sec ISO 320; from vehicle

Marbled Godwit in the surf

Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.31/1250 sec ISO 320; from vehicle

Well, here is just a teaser photo. 

It turned out to be a fairly nice day even with the bright sun. As planned, we left early about 2 pm. When we made a quick stop at WalMart in Sugar Land, I discovered my tripod was not in the bed of the truck. Thinking back over the day, I must have left it set up on the beach next to the big puddle. I can remember stowing the crate in the truck bed, and the camera with the big lens in front, but somehow I just didn't get the tripod. I can't figure out why we didn't see it when we backed up and turned around, but ... sigh. 

Just to be sure, we did go back to the Texas City Dike on the off chance it was still there. Nope. So, Santa brought me a replacement tripod and gimbal head a bit ahead of the holidays. Not exactly what I wanted to spend my money on right now, but I can't take photos without it. Dang. 

Have you ever lost something really important? Did you look everywhere for it? Are you still looking? Let me know in the comments below. 

The Dump

The Dump

Stoned Birds and Other Weird Stuff

Stoned Birds and Other Weird Stuff