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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shorebirds of Southwest Florida: Marbled Godwit and more ...

[Bunche Beach, FL. January 2013]

A good assortment of shorebirds, waders and a bonus falcon to boot were found at Bunche Beach and the surrounding areas in Southwest Florida.

Listed in Audubon's "10-under-10000" awareness campaign, the Piping Plover is one of two shorebirds featuring on the list (the other being the Black Oystercatcher). This plover has a global population of only 8,000 birds and is still little understood (for example, the fact that the majority winter in the Bahamas was "discovered" only in 2011).

Seen in basic plumage at Bunch Beach.

This handsome, sparrow-sized, plover is classified as "Near Threatened" by the the IUCN. However, in many states in the US it is listed as "Endangered" where their numbers are under pressure; for example, only about 60 breeding pairs exist in the Great Lakes region.

Nearby,a much larger shorebird, indeed the largest of the godwits, feeds on a small crustacean. The Marbled Godwit breeds in the Northern Plains and is widely found wintering along both coasts of the US.

Like other shorebirds, these Godwits have rebounded from a precipitous population decline caused by market hunting in the 1800's and now number about 170,000 individuals.

Also found on the mudflats were other wintering shorebirds including a red knot and a dunlin. The red knot is a chunky sandpiper with chevron markings on its breast. The dunlin is much smaller and has a slightly down-curved bill.

Red Knot at Bunch Beach. A pale shadow of its Spring flamboyance.

Red Knot trotting past the long-billed curlew.

Moving on to Waders, a Great Egret is found pruning perched on a mangrove tree.

Lime green lores and luxurious aigrettes betray the fact that this heron is entering breeding plumage. 

Smaller than the Great Egret, the Reddish stalks fish in the shallows. Its feeding technique alternates between purposeful stalking and frenzied "dancing".

The Reddish Egret is our best example of the herons that engage in "canopy feeding".
A snowy egret perches on a mangrove tree.

Red-breasted merganser.

Finally, the bonus bird: a juvenile Peregrine Falcon perched on a pine tree. Responsible for spooking all the gulls and terns away.

Jpeg GPS tags:
Location of Peregrine Falcon: map link
Location of Piping Plover: map link
Location of Marbled Godwits: map link

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