Sunday, February 8, 2015

Florida Shorebird Spectacular

We were in Florida again this winter and the shorebirding was particularly good. Here are some photo highlights...

We had a sweep of the four regularly occurring North American "small belted plovers". Here are photos of three of them (quiz: what's the fourth?)

Wilson's Plover

Snowy Plover

Piping Plover

Willets were plentiful along the coastline and posed nicely for the camera.

Willet

We took a tourist boat to Anclote Key Preserve State Park; an offshore gulf coast barrier island only accessible by water. These barrier islands are important habitations for wintering shorebirds. While there, Hannah discovered a previously unreported Long-billed Curlew; North America's largest sandpiper which regularly but sparsely occurs in winter on the Florida Gulf Coast. We received some "eyebrows raised" emails from the local eBird police for submitting this one ("what you saw was almost certainly a Whimbrel"). Luckily I had the photo evidence.



Long-billed Curlew

While roaming the beach at Howard Park in northern Pinellas County, we startled a pair of American Oystercatchers that were sleeping in the tidal wrack line.

American Oystercatcher

Notice the peculiar shape of the pupil in the bird above. The dark "fleck" which occurs in both American and Black Oystercatchers (and less prominently in other taxa) is thought by some researchers to be a sex-linked trait indicative of a female bird.*

* Reference: Guzzetti, B.M., Talbot, S.L., Tessler, D.F., Gill, V.A., and Murphy, E.C. 2008. Secrets in the eyes of Black Oystercatchers: a new sexing technique. Journal Of Field Ornithology 79 (2): 215-223.

5 comments:

dwaynejava said...

Robert, looks like you had a great trip to Florida. I'm a little jealous of the Snowy Plover! I'm yet to see that avian jem. Good Birding -DM

Robert Maciver said...

Thanks Dwayne. I'll stick my neck out - I'm trying to find someone to go birding in Texas with in late April or November if you're interested. You would be guaranteed a Snowy Plover.

dwaynejava said...

Robert, its hard for me to get time off at work but I appreciate the offer. I have time off during the summer months though. I might try to Texas thus summer and try for the snowy!

dwaynejava said...

Quiz answer: Semipalmated plover? Killdeer? Congrats on the Long billed Curlew.

Robert Maciver said...

Give the man a kewpie doll... Semi-palmated Plover.

The curlew was a nice surprise. If I remember correctly you saw one last year in the vicinity of Fort Myers.