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Posts Tagged ‘Bird Watching beaches’

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

Posted by Jody on May 14, 2017


I’ve never considered myself a “birder” before. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly know a Road Runner from a Robin. And I can identify a male Cardinal by it’s brilliant red color and conspicuous crest. In the past, I’ve been known to enjoy watching the Harris’s Hawks nesting in our front yard tree in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and get downright excited spying an Osprey triumphantly returning to it’s nest with a freshly caught dinner in Nokomis, Florida. But, how many eggs were likely to be found in the Harris’s Hawks’ nest, and how long did the Ospreys’ eggs take to hatch?  I hadn’t a clue.

The thing is, since moving to our little beach house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I’m starting to understand a little more about how someone gets hooked on bird watching. I’m not talking just a little hooked – I’m talking really hooked!


Not too long ago, on a morning walk along our beach, we ran across a few scattered orange marker flags indicating nests of what we assumed were Least Terns. The little coastal critters are pretty well known in these parts. We’ve spotted the permanently marked nesting areas on the beach near Biloxi, and we have noticed the sign on Highway 90 designating a section of the roadway “Judith Toups Least Tern Highway.” In fact, we encountered a very active Least Tern nesting colony complete with helpful Audubon Society volunteers in Sarasota County (FL) last summer. So it was pretty clear what was happening on our beach! We had an actual Least Tern nesting colony forming right there, not more than a couple blocks from our beachy hideaway.

To date this particular colony has had its ups and downs. According to the American Bird Conservancy website: “The Least Tern has two big problems. It prefers sandy beaches for nesting—the same kinds of places that people love to visit. And, because it nests on the ground, it’s vulnerable to attacks by cats, dogs, and other predators, which can destroy a significant portion of a colony’s eggs and chicks.” We have had a couple big rain storms resulting in nests being covered by windswept sand. Yet we remain hopeful that the little colony on our beach survives and flourishes in the weeks and months to come.

The area is now roped off and signage has been placed. Hubby and I are planning on joining the Audubon Mississippi Coastal Bird Stewardship effort by becoming active volunteers.  I may be a real live birder when next we meet. I’ll keep you posted!


Please Tern Around

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Least Terns on the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.



Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Beach Bird Watching (Looking into Looking Up)

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!

Beach Birding on the Texas Gulf Coast

Beach Birding on the Texas Gulf Coast

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!):

Bird Watching at Waukegan Municipal Beach

Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail

Birding areas in the Great Lakes Bay Region

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!)

Space Coast Birding

Pacific Coast Beach Birding - Santa Cruz, California

West Coast Beach Birding – Santa Cruz, California

Birding the West Coast:

The Bird Guide (there are some good links on this site for the Pacific Northwest coast)

Focus on Birds

Bird Watching in San Diego

Birding Hawaii’s Shores:

Hawaiian Audobon

Gulf Of Mexico Beach Birding:

Alabama Gulf Coastal Birding Trail

Birds of the Upper Texas Coast

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: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pacific Golden-Plovers

Posted by E.G.D. on May 23, 2012

A Pacific Golden-Plover in full breeding plumage. (Photo by tinyfroglet from Flickr)

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.

Here’s one with more everyday plumage (Photo from USFWS Alaska Image Library)

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!

E.G.D. on campus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

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 in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tufted Puffins, Birds With “Do”s

Posted by Greg on April 4, 2012

Tufted Puffin. Photo by Jeff Foote (NOAA Photo Library)

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.

Misty Morning at Haystack Rock

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.

Tufted Puffin (Photo:Mike Boylan/PD-USgov-NOAA) Nice "do"

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: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ospreys, Magnificent Birds of Prey.

Posted by Greg on January 11, 2012

Osprey with fish. Photo by Terry Ross (Wikimedia Commons)

When Jody and I go to the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, Florida I’m always on the lookout for ospreys. I have long been interested in birds of prey.  According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “One of the largest birds of prey in North America, the Osprey eats almost exclusively fish. It is one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica.”

Osprey at Morro Bay, California. Photo by Mike Baird (Wikimedia Commons)

An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is fairly easy to identify, especially when flying, because of its gull-like crooked wing shape. It has a bright white breast and belly with the white extending out on the underside of the wings, mixing to white and dark at the ends of the wings and on the tail. The back is black or dark brown. The osprey has a white head and a distinctive dark mask across its eyes. This large raptor has a body length ranging from 21 to 26 inches and a wingspread that can measure almost 6 feet.  According to  the United States Geological Survey, “One species makes up the family Pandionidae and that is the osprey. It is a specialized fish-catching hawk and has a number of anatomical distinctions indicating it has pursued its own evolutionary course. For these reasons, it has been placed in a separate family from the hawks and eagles.”

We first learned about ospreys on Sanibel Island, Florida because of the area’s local efforts to bring them back in larger numbers. We spotted osprey nest stands on power poles as well as freestanding nesting platforms.  The osprey population drastically declined in numbers in the 1970s as a result of pesticide use, and it is now protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

We’ll certainly be on the lookout for ospreys in other coastal areas. These magnificent birds of prey can also be found in forested habitats near rivers and lakes.

Happy birdwatching!

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Posted in Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Black Skimmer

Posted by Greg on January 4, 2012

Black Skimmer. Photo by Dan Pancamo (Wikimedia Commons)

The Black Skimmer is a unique and quite beautiful bird. Its name describes its top color and its feeding method. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  “the remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper.”

Another fascinating trait of the Black Skimmer is its call.  Dave Mehlman of  The Nature Conservancy says “it has a call somewhat like a dog, a distinct voice among coastal birds in the United States. In fact, some have described the black skimmer as an ‘aerial beagle.’ ”

Dave Melman continues, “the skimmer feeds by flying low over the water and putting its lower bill into the water. As it flies along, when it encounters a fish with its lower bill, the upper bill snaps down instantly and the skimmer catches and eats the fish. The key to this whole feeding mechanism is that the lower bill is shaped like a knife, with a narrow leading edge. So, it can literally slice through the water while flying along at a normal speed.”

Black Skimmer. Photo by Dan Pancamo (Wikimedia Commons)

The Black Skimmer is found in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas of North America from Massachusetts south to Central and South America. It likes to frequent open sandy beaches, and it nests on low-lying sandy areas with low vegetation.

Watching birds is one of many things we enjoy at the seashore. From pelicans to plovers to birds of prey, all are unique and beautiful, and it’s a lot of fun to discover new and different coastal birds. Watch for more beach birds on Wild Wednesdays to come, and in the meantime, happy beach birdwatching!

As always, please feel free to tell us about your favorite beach bird-spotting experiences in the comment box below.  Also, you may consider submitting a guest article on the subject.  We’re always happy to see your ideas!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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