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photos/perception - fun/frustration

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  • Rich712@aol.com
    Chirp, I ve reviewed Denny s photos from Wenas Lake on Sunday and mulled over my own experience at the lake on Friday. I m tempted to make a return trip soon.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1 3:10 PM

      I've reviewed Denny's photos from Wenas Lake on Sunday and mulled over my own
      experience at the lake on Friday. I'm tempted to make a return trip soon.
      The Peregrine calls...a tough county bird for me. But I'm also having trouble
      clearing my head about summer shorebirding. I can't decide why. Is it
      because it can be fun or because it can be frustrating?

      Denny posted nice photos; working from the photos, I may have settled on the
      Wilson's Phalarope's identity much faster than I did in first hand
      observation. Out on the mud, I dismissed phalarope based on the bird's size and
      behavior. Not being familiar with summer plumages didn't help either.

      I see phalaropes more often in the spring when their plumages are almost
      unmistakable. Why was I confused about the bird's size? After all, they are the
      same size in spring and fall. It has to be the company they keep. A Wilson's
      Phalarope is roughly 9 inches long and weighs 2 ounces. In the spring, I
      find them in the company of American Avocets (18" & 11oz), Black-necked Stilt
      (14" & 6oz), Greater Yellowlegs (14" & 6oz), as well as with ducks...Cinnamon
      Teal (16" & 14oz) being one of the smaller ducks, for example. Tossed in with
      these guys, the phalaropes look small and, in my mind, petite.

      However, on the summer mud at Wenas Lake, they hang out with 6 to 7 inch,
      less than one ounce peeps. They no longer look petite; by comparison, they are
      buff beach bullies.

      If pressed for a phalarope's most distinguishing behavioral trait, many would
      offer its propensity for swimming...often spinning in tight circles to churn
      up prey. On Friday, my mystery bird never swam but walked about picking at
      the mud. I do not recall a spring phalarope being able to resist at least a
      quick swim when water was at hand (or toe).

      Its plumage eliminated Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper. Birders normally
      enjoy finding something unusual. As Stilt Sandpipers are uncommon in Yakima
      County, I really wanted to turn this mystery bird into one of those. Lots of
      similar field marks but in the end, there were too many differences. I was home
      for an hour before I decided the bird was a Wilson's Phalarope.

      After picking through references, I have gained knowledge. The Wilson's are
      the largest of the three phalaropes; the most terrestrial (swim less); lack
      the lobed toes of the other two species but their toes are bordered by a narrow
      fringe; their eyeline is a postocular eye stripe; females are significantly
      larger than males; and, at least in certain circumstances, tend to feed in the
      fashion of Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers.

      Denny states in one of his photo captions that leg color, in many instances,
      will quickly confirm or eliminate species. True...but often easier said than
      done. The light has to be good...maybe even perfect for a novice like me to
      determine leg color. Backlighting? Forget it! Sun directly overhead? Dark
      shadows make dark legs. Shorebirds at Wenas are wallowing in mud. Wet mud on
      legs looks black; dry mud looks more gray. Even in his photos, only the legs
      in the foreground reveals color. The legs in the background shadows look
      black to me. Stir in movement (by the bird, the background water or grass) and
      color becomes the old shell game. Now you think you see it; a flash later, you
      know you don't.

      A couple of things on the lists Denny and I compiled. He did not list any
      Spotted Sandpipers while I thought there were a minimum of eight two days
      earlier. He noted 12 Killdeer and I estimated 50 plus. Time of Day? Or falcon?
      Neither of us reported a Wilson's Snipe. In past summer shorebird visits to
      Wenas, a dozen would not be uncommon. Is it because the level of the lake is so
      low? Past years, the snipe seemed to favor vegetation areas close to the
      water. This year, there is a baked expanse of mud between the lake and any
      vegetative cover. Or is it too early for Snipe hunting?

      Now that I have vented, maybe I can get on with my life. Wouldn't mind going
      shorebirding. Until I got hot and/or frustrated. Maybe there are no bad
      birds, just badly befuddled birders?


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