Go ahead ~
Strut your stuff!
Posted by Jody on March 30, 2014
Go ahead ~
Strut your stuff!
Posted by E.G.D. on July 19, 2013
I was reading an article this morning about bird photography on the coast of Marco Island. Apparently, at the island’s Tigertail Beach, that sort of thing is a serious spectator sport, in that not only did the journalist seem to be watching the birds, he seemed to be watching the photographers, and he seemed to expect his readers to be as interested in the photographers as in the birds. He talked about the photographers and camera equipment, in fact, significantly more than he talked about the birds. This makes journalistic sense, in that the article was published in the Marco Eagle, Marco’s local newspaper.
This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point. It seems to me that most beach-goers who are not bird photographers or birdwatchers are unlikely to go to the beach to seek out interesting avian life. We flock to boat tours for whale watching, or dolphin spotting. We squeal like children when we spot a sea turtle. We go snorkeling or scuba diving to see interesting fish. We brave the natural smelliness of seals to see them basking in the sun. Is it just me, or do we spend most of our wildlife energy on the beaches in looking down?
I’m a sheller. I’ll admit, I’m guilty as charged!
Why don’t we, for the sake of shaking up our usual beach routines, spend a little time enjoying the wildlife that occasionally goes up? For those of you who are interested, here is a series of fun links concerning beach bird watching all over the U.S. :
Birding the Great Lakes Beaches (Tundra Swans, Bald Eagles and many more!):
Birding the East Coast:
Birding Assateague Island National Seashore(Funny thing, I’ve actually been to this area, and I don’t remember a single bird. Not because the birds weren’t there, but because I wasn’t looking!)
Birding the West Coast:
The Bird Guide (there are some good links on this site for the Pacific Northwest coast)
Birding Hawaii’s Shores:
Gulf Of Mexico Beach Birding:
Cool, huh? I’ve been looking up things to look up at all morning, and actually, most of them seem to spend quite a lot of their time wading. Still, aren’t they fun? Enjoy! -E.G.D.
~~~ Originally published Jul 27, 2011 ~~~
Please feel free to share your coastal bird watching experiences and/or your favorite beach birding site!
Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of North America, Inland Shores | Tagged: Atlantic Coast Bird Watching, Beach Bird Photography, Beach Bird Watching, Bird Watching beaches, Bird Watching Great Lakes Beaches, Bird Watching Marco Island, Pacific Coast Bird Watching, US Birding Beaches | 8 Comments »
Posted by Greg on November 14, 2012
Surprisingly, no comic book superhero or super-villain has yet claimed the name “The Masked Booby.” It may only be a matter of time!
The Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) is the largest of the boobies, measuring up to a meter (39 inches) long with a 5 to 6 foot wing span. The term “Masked Boobies” once represented a larger group of birds, but recently it has been divided into two separate species. The birds that are no longer called Masked Boobies are now called the Nazca Boobies (Sula granti). Those boobies are mostly seen on the Galapagos, they are slightly smaller, and they have a redish-pink to orange bill instead of the Masked Boobies’ yellow bill. Both groups have white bodies with dark brown to black feathers on their tails and on the trailing edges of their wings.
According to BirdLife International, the masked booby “favors smaller oceanic islands for roosting and breeding, especially those that are flat with un-forested terrain, including low, sandy cays, coral beaches, and arid volcanic islands, both bare and with zerophytic scrub.”
NHPT Nature Works says, “The masked booby breeds in the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. Occasionally, it can be found in the Gulf states of Louisiana, Texas and Florida. It winters in open ocean waters. The masked booby plunges head first into the ocean to catch flying fish and squid. It can dive from distances of over 90 feet.”
Unlike the blue footed booby, the masked booby only raises one chick at a time. The female sometimes will lay two eggs with only one hatching. If both hatch, one will hatch 4 to 7 days before the other. The older and larger chick will push the sibling out of the nest. The parents do not protect the ejected chick from opportunistic predators. It is thought that this process may insure success to have at least one hatchling since their eggs hatch about 60% of the time, and since they are best equipped to take care of only one chick, the ejection helps insure the success of the first born. Both parents share the incubation duties, and like the other boobies, they use their feet to warm the eggs which hatch in 38 to 49 days. The young make first flight in 109 to 151 days but return to the nest to be fed by the parents for another month or two (kind of like when your kids leave the nest but come home to raid the fridge or grab a free hot meal).
Well, what do you think? What sort of super power might “The Masked Booby” possess? Maybe flying and diving fast enough to snatch up Aquaman’s loyal minions from the sea? Feel free to take a gander (yes, that is a waterfowl pun) and tell us your own ideas on the subject.
Happy beach birdwatching!
Posted by Greg on August 29, 2012
The name “cormorant” applies to a large variety of birds worldwide. According to the USDA Wildlife Service, there are 30 different species of cormorants, both flighted and flightless, around the globe. The flightless cormorants inhabit the Galapagos Islands only. Many reliable sources currently place cormorants in the Pelecaniformes order of birds, which also includes gannets, pelicans, boobies and great frigates. Of course, both the numbers and the order are subject to change as scientific discoveries are made and definitions are tweaked.
According to Carolina Birds.org, “The Pelecaniformes order is in a state of flux. The order was originally defined to include birds that have feet with four web toes. Most members also have non functional nostril slits. They feed on fish or similar marine life. However, many of these species have obtained these features by convergent evolution and not because of common ancestry. At least one new order will probably be formed.” While researching for this post, I found the cormorants’ order listed as Suliformes in more than one trusted reference. The argument goes on.
Cormorants make their nests in a wide variety of ways and places. Britannica Online says, “Cormorants inhabit seacoasts, lakes, and some rivers. The nest may be made of seaweed and guano on a cliff or of sticks in a bush or tree. The two to four chalky eggs, pale blue when fresh, hatch in three to five weeks, and the young mature in the third year.”
Cormorants aren’t particularly spectacular looking birds. Continuing the quote from Britannica, “Cormorants have a long hook-tipped bill, patches of bare skin on the face, and a small gular sac (throat). The largest and most widespread species is the common, or great, cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo; white-cheeked, and up to 100 cm (40 inches) long, it breeds from eastern Canada to Iceland, across Eurasia to Australia and New Zealand, and in parts of Africa.”
According to e-how.com, “The cormorant has featured prominently in many famous works of literature. In “Paradise Lost,” John Milton used the cormorant as a symbol of avarice and dishonesty as it sat in the Tree of Life as Eve entered Eden. In “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, the eponymous heroine painted a cormorant to represent a cruel woman she disliked. During medieval times, many cultures used cormorant plumage in their coat-of-arms and other heraldry.”
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Well, Stephen… the bird’s flightless?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: Yes.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: It’s not going anywhere.
Master and Commander
Posted by Greg on June 27, 2012
The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a very large bird by any standard. It stands about 4 feet tall, can have a wing span of over 9 feet, and weighs between 10 and 30 pounds. It flies north during breeding season (as far as Northern Alberta, Canada) and winters south (as far as the Gulf of Mexico and Central America). In the continental United States, you can find American White Pelicans on lakes, streams, rivers and marshes from Minnesota, west to Northern California in the summer months, and in the Gulf Coast States and southern California in the winter months.
According to Nature Works (New Hampshire Public TV): “It is entirely white except for its black-edged wings that are visible when the American white pelican is in flight. It has a long neck, a long orange bill with an expandable pouch and short orange legs with big webbed feet. In breeding season, it has a light yellowish crest on the back of its head and a nuptial tubercle or fibrous plate on the upper part of its bill. The nuptial tubercle will fall off when mating season is over and the crest will turn gray. Young American white pelicans have grayish markings on their heads and backs.“
Other than shallow surface dives, the American White Pelican does not dive for its food like its cousin the Brown Pelican. He usually just dips his head into the water to scoop up his prey. Sometimes these pelicans fish cooperatively. Forming a semi circle, they splash with their feet and wings to drive the confused fish into shallow water where they can scoop them up. Sometimes they will form opposing lines, one side driving the fish to the waiting pelicans on the other side.
According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The American White Pelican is a graceful flier, either singly, in flight formations, or soaring on thermals in flocks. They soar in different portions of thermals for different distances: wandering flights in lower portions of a thermal, commuting flights at middle heights, and cross-country flights in the upper reaches of thermal columns.“
No matter the beach or water’s edge you happen to be on, these magnificent birds are a real joy to watch.
Posted by Jody on June 1, 2012
Beach lovers are friendly folks! Case in point: I just recently met Elaine Rutledge, an artist who lives on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. She’s a beach and water lover, and she’s definitely friendly! Well, we didn’t actually meet in person, we met in cyberspace. I just happened to be looking for other beach loving bloggers and came across her site, Elaine Rutledge Art. We struck up a conversation and Elaine told me her “favority haunt is the beach at Dauphin Island.”
So, I checked it out! Historic Dauphin Island is a barrier island in Mobile County, Alabama. It’s located in the Gulf of Mexico, three miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay. According to the Town of Dauphin Island, “The island is approximately 14 miles long and 1 ¾ miles wide at the widest point. The eastern six miles are inhabited while the western 8 miles are undeveloped and privately owned. It is estimated that 1300 permanent residents call Dauphin Island home. The number of residents soars during vacation and holiday times. The entire island has been designated as a bird sanctuary and thousands of visitors come to experience the annual migrations.” Judging from the website, I’d say it looks like Dauphin Island is the ideal haven for swimming, surfing, beachcombing, bike riding and bird watching.
Never having been to Dauphin Island, I asked Elaine if she would share the beach experience with us, which she very graciously did! She even sent along photos of the East End beach on Dauphin Island. Elaine told me: “The island is a fabulous destination….if you google Dauphin Island, you will find many beautiful images. There is an airport, golf course, beaches at each end, and in the middle of the island….Fort Gaines, and a ferry that takes you across the mouth of the bay to Fort Morgan. Also fun is the Bird Sanctuary. The restaurants are some of the best in the area. And Cadillac Square is a lovely large park with ancient oak trees. The island had bedrock on the east end, mostly sand on the west end, that was split by hurricane Katrina. Now you can only reach the westernmost tip by walking across the cut on a “bridge” made of rocks that closes the cut. This rock barrier is vital to the oyster farming located on the leeward side of the island in the Bay.”
The Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board maintains and operates many of the islands historic sites, natural habitats, and family recreation areas which include Dauphin Island’s beaches and public parks. The board also oversees campgrounds and the 850-foot Dauphin Island Fishing Pier which, interestingly enough, no longer even reaches anywhere near the water’s edge!
You can check out Elaine’s art (much of it is beach themed) at Elaine Rutledge Art ~ Art from the Heart. I’m sure she’d just love to have you stop by. And, you won’t even have to call ahead! ;-)
Yessiree, beach lovers are mighty friendly folks!
Posted by E.G.D. on May 23, 2012
My graduate school Alma Mater is the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and let me tell you, the campus is positively covered with Pacific golden-plovers, especially during the months of the standard school year (apparently, the lanky, mottled-gold little guys “winter” in Hawaii and on other Pacific islands, but breed in Siberia and Alaska from May through July). Here’s the funny thing, though… I never before really thought of them as shorebirds. UHM is up in the valley, a good 30 to 40 minute walk from the shore. However, according to pretty much everything I’ve found, they are shorebirds, and they’re usually referred to as “waders” by books and articles. So, basically my project for today is figuring out on what shores they can be found.
The first place I found a note about the Pacific golden-plovers on an actual shore was on the state of Hawaii’s government website. The quote is as follows: “estimated wintering densities range from 0.22 to 44.7 birds per hectare in wild habitats such as forest trails and coastal mudflats.” So that’s it! They like mudflats. No wonder I’ve seen so few of them on the soft sands. Incidentally, I added the bold, italic, and underline in the above quote (for dramatic emphasis, of course ^_^. Watch for a repeat performance). It’s not, strictly speaking, part of the quote. On a different note, the line that immediately follows that quote is “densities in developed habitats in Hawai‘i have been estimated as 1.4 birds per hectare on golf courses and 5.2 birds per hectare on lawns,” and honestly, I strongly associate them with UHM’s lawns. It’s all coming together!
Next, I found this on the Audubon WatchList website: “these plovers adapt to an array of winter habitat, much of it altered by humans. They are found in coastal salt marshes, beaches, mangroves, fields, clearings in heavily wooded areas, airport runways, military bases, golf courses, cemeteries, athletic fields, and residential lawns.” There we have it! The Audubon Society should know what they’re talking about, right? And here they are saying that Pacific golden-plovers can be found on beaches! I guess I need to work on keeping my eyes open and trying to spot one on a beach, rather than on somebody’s front lawn. I should have plenty of opportunity, goodness knows, because they can be found all over the place. The Audubon site says that “the winter range of this species is spread out over about half of the world’s circumference. It occupies upland and coastal habitats ranging from Hawaii to Japan, from the South Pacific through southern Asia and the Middle East to northeast Africa. It also winters in specific areas of coastal California, and probably in Baja California, the Revillagigedo and Galapagos Islands, and Chile as well.” It looks like Australia and New Zealand are included in the term “South Pacific” here, because the article lists both of those countries as places the bird can be spotted. That gives the birdwatchers of the world one heck of a lot of coastline to comb!
If you happen to spot a Pacific golden-plover on a coast somewhere, please drop us a line! We’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories. If you simply want to brag a bit, there’s always the comment block below, as well. Mahalo, and have a great day at the beach- E.G.D.
Posted by Greg on April 25, 2012
Often seen perched on coastal trees and shrubs, the colorful Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) lives and breeds on tropical and subtropical islands and atolls of the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the three seas north of Australia.
Unlike blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies don’t have an elaborate mating dance. Nesting on land, these handsome sea birds breed throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWMI) and at limited sites on the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). Red-footed boobies, or ′ā (as they are known in Hawaii), are the only boobies that commonly nest in small trees and shrubs. Egg laying usually peaks from February through April, with the ′ā producing only one egg per season. Equal opportunity guardians, both the males and females share in incubation duties. The young are ready to fly around September. The doting parents feed their young for up to 4 months after fledging (developing wing feathers large enough for flight).
Red-footed boobies have been known to follow, and sometimes land, on ships and fishing boats. They feed mostly on squid and fish and can snatch a flying fish, their favorite food, out of the air. Like their blue-footed relatives, they are great divers and have keen eyesight to spot their prey. They can dive from as high as 26 feet to capture their dinner.
Red-footed boobies are the smallest of all the boobies. They measure 28 to 30 inches in length and have a wing span of around 4 1/2 feet. Unlike their blue-footed relatives, they aren’t very uniform in appearance. Almost all Hawaiian birds of this species are white, however, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Red-footed Booby comes in a confusing array of color morphs, ranging from individuals that are all white except for blackish on the wing, to individuals that are entirely dark brown. Some birds fail to fit neatly into any of the typical color morph categories, and many variations exist. Color morphs do not segregate reproductively or geographically; individuals representing several morphs breed in a single colony.”
Like their booby cousins, they are unafraid of people and easy to capture. In some areas these birds are used for food. Poaching, coupled with other encroachments on their habitat (e.g., insects, rats and feral cats), is resulting in the appearance of declining numbers.
Jody and I hope that our next Hawaiian vacation will take us to the island of Kauai. We’ll definitely plan a visit to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where we now know to be on the lookout for these very interesting and beautiful coastal birds!
-Now, can someone please tell me how to pronounce ′ā?
Have a great day birding at the beach! Aloha!
Related links: Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy
Boobies? Seriously, Boobies, Blue-Footed Booby
National Geographic, Red-Footed Booby
Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of The Hawaiian Islands | Tagged: ′ā, Beach Bird Watching, birding in Hawaii, Boobies, booby bird, red footed boobies, Sula sula | Leave a Comment »
Posted by alainaflute on April 11, 2012
Wildlife Wednesday on BeachTreasuresandTreasureBeaches has brought us many articles on all kinds of fun beach critters: horses, mice, and dolphins, oh, my! But there is definitely one beach-goer that all beaches have in common: birds. In the words of David McRee, Visit Florida Beaches Expert, “Beaches and birds: they’re a natural pairing.” Florida beaches are great places to birdwatch, and in his Birding on the Beach article on VisitFlorida.com, David McRee tells us how to identify these noisy, fine-feathered beach-goers. You may be surprised at just how many varieties there are!
Best known by the moniker “sea”, gulls come in many varieties: herring gulls, laughing gulls, and ring-billed gulls.
“Laughing gulls, so named because their call sounds like a laugh, are easily identified by their black head and red bill. Herring gulls are much larger, with a white head. The small, ring-billed gull has a black ring around its yellow bill. They all tend to intermingle.” These birds are bold and daring, so please don’t feed them!
Let’s take a tern (yeah, yeah, I couldn’t help myself). Terns look like gulls, white above and gray below, but they are a bird of a different feather! How can you tell them apart? “They have a lighter, more buoyant flight with sleeker, narrower bodies and wings, forked tails and very sharp beaks. Terns will hover briefly over the water, 10 to 30 feet in the air, and then dive gracefully to catch a fish.”
There are a few different kinds of terns. The Royal tern is the largest and has an orange bill. The Caspian tern‘s bill is red. The smallest tern is the Least tern, and last but not least (again, couldn’t resist) is the Common tern with a black cap and an orange-red bill.
Shorebirds are those cute, little birds that will run away instead of fly away when you get closer. I used to call them Sandpipers because I didn’t know what else to call them! Now I know that Sanderlings, Dowitchers and Willets are more specific ways to identify these little beach joggers.
Sanderlings are one of the smallest shorebirds (about 6 inches long). They have black bills, black eyes, and black legs. Dowitchers are a little larger and are usually gray or light brown with a long, thin bill. The Willet is one of the larger shorebirds. With long bills, long legs, and a grey body, they are fairly easy to pick out, especially if they are hanging out with their shorter shorebird friends.
Now for the elegant seabirds. Herons and Egrets are beautiful, long-legged birds that can be found near water anywhere in Florida. White Herons and Egrets and Grey or Blue Herons are of the more common varieties.
Some other birds you can spy by the sea in Florida are the Roseate Spoonbill, the White Ibis, the Black Skimmer, the Oystercatcher, and the Brown Pelican.
There is plenty more to know about beach birding in Florida: how to respect birds nesting on the beach, keeping beaches clean, what to do if you see a bird in distress, and the best places to find birds. Read this important information in David McRee’s article on VisitFlorida.com!
Who knew there was so much to know about these seemingly common beach creatures? It’s time to hit the beach with our binoculars and field guide to see just how many kinds of beach birds we can identify!
Posted in Atlantic Coast Beaches, Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches | Tagged: Beach Bird Watching, bird watching on Florida beaches, Florida coastal birds, Shorebirds | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Greg on April 4, 2012
Here’s a great bit of news for those who want to see puffins but can’t go to Newfoundland or Europe. They’re coming to Oregon! Cannon Beach no less! According to the Coast Explorer, “Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins return to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks, offering the Northwest’s most accessible location to see nesting puffins. Throughout the spring and summer months, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program is on the beach at Haystack Rock offering interpretive information about the rock and the habitat it provides for intertidal creatures and birds. The program offers spotting scopes focused on nesting Tufted Puffins to offer visitors a look at the colorful birds.” This is definitely going on my to-do list.
The Seattle Audubon Society tells us, “Tufted Puffins can be found in many coastal habitats adjacent to the Washington coast and elsewhere in the northern Pacific, with the exception of estuaries. They breed in colonies on islands with steep, grassy slopes or on cliff tops.
Winter habitat is well offshore, in mid-ocean.They dive and swim underwater, using their wings to paddle and their feet to steer their way through schools of small fish, which they catch in their bills. They can be seen carrying fish crosswise in their bills (sometimes 12 or more), which they take back to their young. “
Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are a Northern Pacific sea bird. They are found along the Pacific Rim from the islands of Japan to Central California. Their average height is 15.5 inches, and these puffins have a relatively short wingspan. They are a stocky bird and need a running start to take off. Flight is difficult for them, but their wings aid them in swimming. They carry fish for their young to the nest in their bills, but they eat their own meals while under water.
The Alaska SeaLife Center explains: “During the summer breeding season, adults have dark bodies and white faces. Their legs are orange and their large triangular shaped bill is red-orange, with a buff or olive green plate at the top. The Tufted Puffin is distinguished by the long, straw colored tufts that curve backward from their red-ringed eyes. In the winter, they shed that buffy bill sheath and plumes and their face becomes dusky.”
I haven’t been to Cannon Beach, Oregon, in a while. Now seems like a good time to go, and what a great excuse to get away to the beach!
Happy coastal bird watching!
Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Pacific Coast Beaches | Tagged: Beach Bird Watching, Bird Watching beaches, Cannon Beach Oregon, Haystack Rock Awareness Program, Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon, Tufted Puffins, Tufted Puffins Cannon Beach Oregon | 2 Comments »