Friday, 3 May 2013

Waders or Shorebirds?

Like most birders, although I love watching all birds there are particular families and groups that I like the most.

In my case it is waders.However if you are birding in America and say waders they think that you mean big things with long legs that stride around in the water like this Snowy Egret.

This White-faced Egret would also get the label of a wader in Los Angeles. But although I've nothing against Herons, Egrets, Ibises etc, it isn't these that are my favourites.

Go down a size to the members of the order Charadriiformes, without the Gulls, Terns and Skuas and that's them. Waders in the UK but Shorebirds in the States. After Rob and I met up, him from the land down under and me from the UK, our first destination was the Marina Del Ray, close to the airport and a good spot for waders (shorebirds).

A small lagoon behind the coast had a good flock of small waders. Most were Western Sandpipers, a mega in the UK but easy to watch down to a few feet here.

Amongst the Westerns there were a few Least Sandpipers, these are Little Stint sized and always identifiable by their yellow legs (unless they're covered in mud!.

One or two Willets were also around. A bit larger that a Greater Yellowlegs (or a Greenshank) they are heavily mottled in the summer, but really stand out when they fly and display their striking black and white wings. The western birds are larger and longer billed than the eastern birds, and it is likely that these two sub-species will be split as they seem to be distinctive species.

Almost making one feel at home this Ringed Plover look alike is a Semi-palmated Plover. With its feet in the water it isn't possible to see the palmations, but rest assured they are there!

Out on the pier the main target of this short detour from our route to San Diego was waiting for us. We first saw a few distant Surfbirds and cautiously watched them from a respectable distance. Slowly edging nearer. Only when we got to close to focus (well almost) were we sure that these birds were totally oblivious to our presence. I'd only seen a small group in juvenile plumage before, and they were new for Rob.

On the rocks, keeping the Surfbirds company were a couple more Least Sandpipers, often disappearing amongst the rocks on the side of the pier.

Back on the beach we were definitely in more familiar territory with large groups of  Sanderling running up and down the beach in time with the waves, and with then numbers of Godwits.

The Sanderlings may be the same but the Godwits certainly aren't These stunning Marbled Godwits, acquiring their eponymous plumage are quite confiding, allowing much closer approach that Bar-tailed Godwits along the Kent coast.

More Willets were also strutting their stuff, and against a more sympathetic background than the muddy lagoon they did look quite striking, reminding me a little of the pattern of a Greenshank as it develops its summer plumage.

There were one or two Western Sandpipers loafing around on the beach, sometimes looking a little lonely.

This one seemed to have solved the problems of solitude and joined the Sanderlings in a spot of Line Dancing.
Later, on our way to San Diego we found these two American Avocets also having a quiet practice, perhaps avian "Strictly" is on the way!

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