Monday, August 16, 2010

Shorebird confusion -- unconfused!

I went to the Julian Wetlands this afternoon during the hottest part of the day -- it was too early to knock doors for work, so I figured a little time on the steamy marsh would be a good alternative.

I saw some good birds, nothing unusual -- but I saw some birds I just couldn't ID. I've been sitting here with my Peterson's Eastern (the 1947 edition), my Peterson's Western (that one's brand new), and Bill Thompson III's Identify Yourself. Still, I'm kinda hesitant on the following birds:

Mystery bird 1:
Okay -- is that a Lesser Yellowlegs with a realllllllly long beak? Optical illusion? We haven't had any Greater Yellowlegs at Julian this year, so that's not really an option; besides, this bird was about Lesser size. Sorry I don't have a better/another photo for you.

Mystery bird 2, ID'd by John and Patrick as a Spotted Sandpiper:
These pics are awful, but it was blazing hot with heat shimmer all over the place, and I was pretty far away. Anyhow -- note the distinctly white belly and breast -- only the neck is grayish. Smaller than the Lesser Yellowlegs. And see that weird white part on the shoulder? Note that Patrick mentioned that as a field mark specific to the Spotted Sandpiper! And this guy is molting into winter plumage, so no spots on the Spotted Sandpiper. Thanks, John and Patrick!

Here's the next bird, Mystery bird 3--I sent this one out on the local listserv, and Nick Bolgiano (co-author of the newly updated and revised Birds of Pennsylvania) sent me an email asking for more pics, so we may well get an ID on this guy:

This bird was just slightly smaller than the Lesser Yellowlegs, and I could've sworn (though it was really bright and I only had the binocs, not the scope) that its legs were RED. Probably an optical illusion. But check out that filthy-dirty breast -- way more dark feathering than the other LEYEs I saw. But then again -- it's probably just another LEYE.

Last one, Mystery bird 4, who indeed turned out to be the same kind of bird as Mystery Bird 2, a Spotted Sandpiper:

Okay -- your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help a shorebird beginner figure this crap out! Again, thanks to John and Patrick for the ID.

Other stuff I saw:
an actual Lesser Yellowlegs

a Least Sandpiper--they're easy: brown and tiny.

a bunch of different dragonflies flitting around. Here, one of the dragonflies was sitting on the mud and touching his tail to the water over and over; you can't even see him, though you can see the ring of waves resulting from his water-tapping. The others were big dragonflies I can't ID.

I tried to ID this damselfly, but I couldn't find one with as much blue on the eyes, head, and thorax and yet no blue on long long tail part. I gave up. Patrick came to the rescue with an ID of Spreadwing sp., probably Slender Spreadwing. Pretty!

This appears to be a Ruby Meadowhawk, albeit a small one.

There were a ridiculous number of butterflies out today as well: No idea again, but Patrick says Pearl Crescent. Sheesh. Someday I'll gut it up and get a Kaufman's guide to butterflies and moths.

Now THIS one I know--and yet it turns out I DON'T know -- this is the elusive (to me, anyway) Viceroy!:
Patrick pointed out that horizontal stripe across the hindwings, which I missed. For some reason, I thought Viceroys were a little more orange-y. So much for that highly technical field mark point, right?

There were Clouded Sulphurs, Cabbage Whites, a Buckeye, and some others I couldn't photograph or ID.

And what would a beautiful day be without a stunning sunset?


Patrick B. said...

TOugh pics there Delia. 2 is a Spotted Sandpiper. The white shoulder is a good field mark. 4 is one too I think. I'm not touching those others!

The little b-fly is a Pearl Crescent. And the Monarch is actually a Viceroy! Note the black line that goes across the hindwing. THe dragonfly is one of the spreadwing damselflies, maybe Slender Spreadwing.

John said...

Patrick beat me to the easier IDs. I agree about the two Spotted Sandpipers and the invertebrates. One thing to keep in mind with late summer shorebirds is that the birds will be in various stages of molt. So the birds may not look exactly as they appear in the book and shape becomes more important.

NCmountainwoman said...

No help from me whatsoever. But I do love all the photographs.

dAwN said...


So nice to have birders and naturalists like Patrick and John to help with IDs! Great that they take the time to help others that are learning.. Thanks guys!

Looks like you had a great day of birds, butterflies and dragons.

Elizabeth said...

Number 1 looks like a Willet to me. It looks like your area sortof has Willets in the summer. I'll have to compare the others to my guidebook.

Birdchick posted a nice picture over twitter that could be helpful:

Rabbits' Guy said...

I liked that alligator the dragon flies were messing with ....

dguzman said...

Thank you, Patrick and John!


Dawn--if it weren't for these guys, I wouldn't know anything.

Elizabeth--I don't think it was big enough to be a Willet -- but it does look an awful lot like one, now that you mention it. But it just wasn't big enough -- unless it was a juvenile? Guys?

Rabbits' Guy--so THAT'S what they were doing!

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Crafty Green Poet said...

shorebirds are very difficult and I'm on a different continent so would have been no help anyway! I like your damselfly and dragonfly photos

Susan Gets Native said...

I'm with you, D. I can ID solitary sandpiper, killdeer and sanderlings. I think that's it. :)

dguzman said...

Crafty Green Poet--thanks!

Susan--we're gonna be in trouble at Cape May!