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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Door Shut, but a Window Opened and a Bird Flew In

Today was supposed to be my first day on the Hatteras strip in North Carolina for three days of birding fun on the Gulf Stream. Then an earthquake hit Virginia and Hurricane Irene opted to blow towards the East Coast, which is due to hit Hatteras this weekend. People are evacuating at some locations. Oh dear.

Reluctantly I canceled out of the trip, because 2 of the 3 voyages was canceled and the remaining trip now seems unlikely. Sad, but what's a birder to do? Well, head out to the Davis Water Treatment Plant to see the 3 Ring Circus... I mean, to see the Common Ringed Plover.

I drove out this morning and to my total joy, the bird was not only there, but it was being adorably cooperative. There were loads of birders, many who flew in from other states just to see this bird. Of course the bird, is supposed to be over wintering in Africa, so it flew a long way to be here too.

My best shot of the Common Ringed Plover'

This amazing birdie was discovered last Friday by Todd Easteria, who has found many wonderous vagrant birds in his day, but this one is his best. This is only the 4th record of a Common Ringed Plover in the lower 48 states, and the 1st ever found in California.

The belly band is at least twice as thick
as on the similar looking Semipalmated Plover

Below you can compare the Semipalmated Plover with the Common Ringed Plover. What you can't see is the Semipalmateds have dark legs with semi-webbed toes, while the Common Ringed has no toe webbing at all on its crayola bright legs - orange or flesh colored (when not covered in mud). The Common Ringed is also a little larger than Semipalmateds, and at least in this plumage, more rufous in coloration.

Comparison of Semi-palmated Plovers and the
Common Ringed Plover; photo by Todd 'The MAN' Easteria

Even the Swallows buzzed in for a look a the celebrity Plover

Nice belly shot & view of most of the white on its head

Friends often try to preen my ego by telling my shots are great. No. Sorry, they aren't. I haven't been able to get my newish digital camera and spotting scope to work in unison yet. Here is what all of my shots look like before I trim them down. They are 'vignetted' which is too say they resemble a bullet hole in a black wall.
A seriously vingetted, 'bullet hole' digiscoped photo
I took this last photo to give an idea of how far we were from the Plover. It's nice that no matter how many showed up for gawking, we were too far away for the birds to be bothered by happy birders. The Plover is in the photo below, the lone speck, near center on the mud flat. The speck on the far right is a lump of mud and did not fly all the way over from Eurasia to be here.

[Management is happy to say Ms. Miller will receive a full refund for her 3 pelagic trips, canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Of course Ms. Miller had nothing to do with Irene blowing in, or at least we think she had nothing to do with it. If you think otherwise, please contact the Coast Guard, but you may wish to have a chat with a good shrink first.]

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