Saturday, September 1, 2012

plovers and western gull ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar Beach

western snowy plover (aka Kentish plover)
Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus (aka Charadrius nivosus)

western gull and semipalmated plover
Larus occidentalis and Charadrius semipalmatus

Bird IDs do not come easy to me, especially small shorebirds and songbirds. They simply do not have the courtesy to hold still while I try to get a good look. It doesn't help that I'm only armed with an 8-year-old point-and-shoot with a max 4.3 digital zoom. Binoculars and field guides are usually left in the car or at home. Then, the most challenging aspect is birds change their looks more often than Lady Gaga, depending on their age or time of year.

When I took these pictures I had no idea the first was a snowy plover, since the only time I recognized one it had its nesting outfit on with dark patches on its crown, behind the eye, and above the shoulder. I was surprised to see in my enlarged pictures the one I captured had pink, sky blue, lime, and golden yellow bangles - quite the fashion statement! That was my first clue it might be a snowy plover, because I know they're closely monitored due to their federal status as being threatened.

I'm almost ashamed to admit, but I assumed the second small bird was a killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). As I was looking at Cornell's All About Birds site for snowy plovers, I noticed under similar species that killdeers have "two distinct chest bands." Erg. Semipalmated plover was not even on my radar since most pictures online only show its breeding plumage. Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) markings looked similar, but the bill was too big and it's found nowhere near here. I thus began my search of the various kinds of plovers. There are a heck of a lot of plovers out there in the world.

Finally, for the gull, I now know to first look at its leg color. Pink legs narrow down the possibilities for which kinds of gulls are found here in Monterey this time of year. Add in the dark grey of this juvenile, and I can only make a best guess.

Heavy sigh. I pulled out all of my bird books and looked at all of the bird links on my online ID resources page. I ended up getting sidetracked looking at other birds. I'd really like to find a comprehensive bird site that clearly shows the various plumage and coloring like some of my bird books. It's a process that's sometimes frustrating and other times enjoyable.


troutbirder said...

Living in the only county in Minnesota without a single lake and few "shores" waders are rarely seen here and my skill in identifying them is zilch.... :(

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hey, Mr. T, didn't know you lived in the only MN county without a lake. I didn't know that was possible. I would have figured you would at least see migrants. Neighboring South Dakota gets many nesting birds that are on the CA coast other times of the year:

Jennifer said...

Snowy plovers are too cute for words!!!