Saturday, 1 December 2012

Gulf coast

Having gazed over the Gulf of Thailand, and the Gulf of Arabia recently, it was fun to not only look over but wade into the Gulf of Mexico today. Not that it did us much good in terms of species for the list, but we tried.

What sort of a wader is this? 

The sacrifices we make for Wader Quest
The waders we were watching in the distance being disturbed by kayakers.
We arrived at Bunche beach, our destination for the day only to find the tide higher than expected, sounds familiar. However we did see our first Western Willet here and a large number of waders on a distant sandy spit. We decided to try and wade to the spit as we had seen others doing, but were thwarted by the incoming tide and had to turn back.

Western Willet
Getting to know a Western Willet (small dot on the right).

So, we then shot round to JN 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Here we drove the loop, and came across a few waders. The first we saw was Killdeer. I  must admit we had been looking out for them all day without luck, on every piece of open ground or lawn that we passed. We found these up to their tibias in water! They soon moved as the tide rose and they took up more familiar terrestrial poses.

Killdeer
Alongside them was a Red Knot, our first for the USA, and flitting from one bank to another was a restless Spotted Sandpiper.

We had the chance to have a chat with a lovely lady from Ohio if I remember rightly. We talked a bit about the identity of the waders and then heard her story of how she was trying to build her year list as she had pledged to doante a dollar for every species she saw, and there she was trying her best to get the list higher, what a generous lady. She was looking for Wilson's Plover so we were able to tell her where to look at Cranford Park when she goes over to the east of the peninsula. We wish her the very best of luck with her year list and especially with the Wilson's Plover.

You meet some great folk when you are birding.

A little further around the trail we came across our first yellowlegs, it was a Greater Yellowlegs.

Dunlin
Nothing new was added after this and indeed there seemed to be few birds about at all, so we found a place to stay and settled in for the evening to catch up on some admin stuff. Along the beach as we were leaving Sanibel Island we came across some Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones on the beach. The turnstones were tossing aside the gravel-like sand digging quite big pits in it. Often another species would come along and help itself to whatever tot-bit the turnstones had unearthed.

Ruddy Turnstones. The one on the right excavating a pit in the sand.

One of the turnstones had a gammy leg. On closer inspection of the photos later we discovered that it had what looks like fishing line wrapped around it, causing it to become infected and swell up. The bird was clearly irritable as it would bicker with anything that came near it.

Ruddy Turnstone with a swollen right foot. (with Sanderlings).

Wader Quest list 65.

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