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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shorebirds at Little Estero Lagoon

[Little Estero Lagoon CWA. Estero, FL Aug 2013]

A quick trip to coastal Southwest Florida yielded a fine assortment of migrating shorebirds including:
  • Hudsonian Whimbrel
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Piping Plover
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Red Knot
  • Spotted Sandpiper 
  • Black-bellied Plover
The above coupled with resident American Oystercatcher, Snowy Plover, Wilson's Plover, Willet; and the presence of 3 tern species (Least, Sandwich, and Royal) all made for a rewarding birding excursion.

First a member of the curlew family -- the Whimbrel; or, specifically, the Hudsonian Whimbrel (the subspecies found in our area). The Curlews have fared extremely poorly in the face of hunting; and in this group of 8 species, 2 are [most probably] extinct (Eskimo Curlew and Slender-billed Curlew); and a further 3 are threatened.

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Breeding in the vicinity of Hudson Bay and the Arctic, the Hudsonian Whimbrel winters as far South as Argentina and Chile.

There are half as many godwits as curlews -- only 4 species around the globe and we have 2 of them: the Marbled and Hudsonian. The Marbled Godwit is the largest of the lot and is seen well as a wintering species in South Florida.

Marbled Godwit

Another migrating shorebird, the Black-bellied Plover, was seen in its alternate plumage. The Black-bellied shares with the Marbled Godwit the distinction of being the largest of its kind in the US (i.e., it is our largest plover).

Black-bellied Plover
The next plover, in comparison, is a dwarf: the dainty Piping Plover.

This plover was found on the beach side, patting its yellow foot while feeding.

Red Knot

Farther down the beach, a large flock of Red Knot were also busy feeding.

They are strikingly unremarkable in basic plumage.

One individual was sporting vestiges of its alternate plumage -- showing off its rich rufous undersides.

Three freshly plumaged juvenile short-billed dowitchers were in the vicinity.

The Long-billed Dowitcher, which is visually virtually indistinguishable from the Short-billed is not found coastally thereby making identification infinitely simpler by virtue of location.

On the peep front, Western Sandpiper were seen in a small flock:

Western Sandpiper

While Least Sandpiper was not seen at this venue, Spotted Sandpiper was.

On the resident shorebird front, a Ruddy Turnstone was joined by a range of plovers:

... Snowy Plover ...

... Wilson's ...

... and Semi-palmated.

And, finally, our most colorful, the American Oystercatcher; and, 2 terns: Least and Sandwich.

Least Tern with Young

Sandwich Tern

The presence of mangroves, lagoon and coastal habitat features near Lovers Key State Park all contribute to making Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area a prime venue for observing shorebirds.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

A flock of 27 Least Sandpiper were seen in flight traveling northwest at Harns Marsh Preserve on 1 September. I'd prefer a sighting of Spotted Sandpiper over Least Sandpiper any day. The alternate plumage of Red Knot seen here is very rewarding as well. I've never seen Whimbrel in a grassy setting like this at Little Estero Lagoon. A great report of yours, as always, Hemant.