22 October 2008

Sanderlings, Yellowlegs and Dunlins, oh my!

Since it's fall, it's time for yet another bird survey. Today I visited the south shore of Fort Pickens, which was overrun with hundreds of sanderlings (SAND)...

There were several yellowlegs (LEYE) hanging around the north shore ponds. Can you tell how they got their name?

From time to time, a dunlin (DUNL) ran about with the sanderlings as well. They're down curved beak and darker coloring are quick cues to their presence in a mass of feeding, or warming, sanderlings and plovers.

There were egrets and herons running around as well...

Most of the day, however, was dedicated to the feeding sanderlings.

They're the little sewing machines of the beach, tearing up the sand as they hunt for tiny crustaceans underneath...

They must swallow lots of sand as well -- just look at that beak! (If you click on the image to enlarge, it's easier to see.)

They pause from time to time when they are rudely interrupted by an approaching wave...

or taking time out for a nap, but these breaks are rare.

Ever industrious, they keep us busy as we try to remember which individuals we've already counted, and which simply won't stay still. Imagine a flock of 70 or so, running back and forth as the waves wash the beach, like little perpetual motion machines. Sometimes the best count we can get is an educated guess!

1 comment:

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Add cold air into the mix. I hear that some is on the way in the upcoming days, and will even reach into south Florida. For us it will be a 1-2 punch: first we'll get rain from the tropics to the south, ... and then possibly more from the cold front.

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