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Posts Tagged ‘US Birding Beaches’

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!

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of North America, Inland Shores | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 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 »

What is a Snowy Plover?

Posted by Jody on November 2, 2011

A Snowy Plover is a small sparrow-sized shore bird with a gray neck and back. They sport dark patches behind the eyes, on either side of the neck, and on the forehead. Year round residents of Washington, Oregon, and California coastal beaches, they crouch in small depressions in the sand to take cover from the shore winds. In their natural habitat of flat, open coastal beaches, dunes or near the mouths of streams, Snowy Plovers are extremely well camouflaged. (OK, I’ll say it. They are sooooooo adorable!!) “Plover nests usually contains three tiny eggs, which are camouflaged to look like sand and barely visible to even the most well-trained trained eye. Plovers will use almost anything they can find on the beach to make their nests, including kelp, driftwood, shells, rocks, and even human footprints.”(WesternSnoweyPlover.org)

Western Snowy Plover, Morro Bay, California (Photo by Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons)

“Plovers have lived on California beaches for thousands of years. Currently it is estimated that only 1300 Western Snowy Plovers are breeding along the Pacific Coast.” (NPS/Point Reyes National Seashore) The Snowy Plover is currently listed as a federally threatened species and is therefore protected by the Endangered Species Act. This means that beach goers who disturb plovers or their breeding habitat may be cited or fined.

3 Snowy Plover Eggs on the Beach, San Diego County, California (Photo UpLoad: Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)

Here are some tips from the National Park Service for sharing the seashore with the Western Snowy Plover:

Respect posted habitat areas. Stay at least 50 feet away from the birds and nests & report unprotected nests.

Walk dogs only where authorized and always on leash. (Dogs are prohibited from Snowy Plover nesting beaches during breeding season – from mid-March to mid-September)

Properly dispose of garbage to avoid attracting predators. (Crows, ravens, falcons, harriers, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons)

Leave driftwood lying on the sand.  It provides nesting and feeding habitat for Western Snowy Plovers.  Upright wood provides perches for bird predators.

Walk near the water line on the beach.

Let’s share the seashore with our fine feathered friends!  We’ll all have a great day at the beach!

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

 
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