Birder's Eye View

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shore Birding

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings” – William Blake

Went to the beach yesterday, and added at least 5 more birds to my year list (probably more, but I am *really* bad at IDing shorebirds...).

Anywho, it was a lot of fun, even if I didn't count all the birds I could have. Dolphins fished along the coast, sailboats cruised the horizon, and chilly waves rolled and crashed to the shore.

There have been a lot of storms lately, so there were many live shells washing up, and of course that meant LOTS of birds! Gulls, Terns, Willets, and more prowled the pebbly beach, devouring the stranded crustaceans.

I was able to identify most of the species, but there were a couple that unjustly dumbfounded me. This is probably a common species, but it was so far away I couldn't get a good look at it, and this was the best picture I could get. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of Sandpiper; it flew very much like one.

This next picture is also confusing. When this bird flew by, I thought I was taking a picture of a Cormorant. I didn't take much notice until I uploaded the photo, and realized the wings are totally different than a comorant's.

I don't know if this is just a silhouetted Gull/Tern-type bird, or a weird cormorant, or something else entirely! I've done some research, but I can't figure out what it could be. With my luck, it's probably an ordinary, easy-to-ID species. Of course. :-)

Well, the trip was fun anyhow, and brought my year list up to 65. The rest of my photos can be seen in the slide show below. Some of the captions are marked with question marks, and are still in the process of ID verification.

If anyone sees where I have misidentified something, please feel free to drop me a note. (I had a hard time with the Terns!)

Happy birding.

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  • I don't live near FL so I don't know how rare it is but my guess would be that the large bird is a brown booby. I don't know if you have but you should ask about it on a birding mailing list like the ones at
    Hope that helps,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 11, 2008 at 3:56 PM  

  • I thought it looked like a Brown Booby, too, but that would be extemely rare here, as far as I know (although I would be delighted to see one!). I'll keep asking around, though. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Happy birding!

    By Blogger Andrea, At March 11, 2008 at 5:10 PM  

  • Hey Andrea,

    Your mystery shorebird is a tricky one. That would be a really good quiz bird if you knew what it was. Although, I don't think there's enough there to ID just from the photo. If it's a Sandpiper, I'd say Semipalmated (AKA SemiP)
    I'm not so sure it's a sandpiper though. but that's just from the pic. You know what kind of bird it was. Are you sure it was a shorebird?

    Your second bird is either a Br Booby or (much more likely) a young Gannet. If the white belly was sharply defined, then it's a booby. If it wasn't, It's a Gannet. I think it's a Gannet. Nice bird though. I love watching them fly over the waves and especially watching them hunt. It's pretty cool.

    By Blogger Parus, At March 13, 2008 at 12:40 AM  

  • Ok, Here's what I think for your slideshow:
    1st, Sandwich Tern has a black bill with a yellow tip. Of the birds I see, I can't see that. Some of them are hard to see though.
    #4 looks like a Caspian.
    #13 is either Royal or Common depending on the bill color. Yellow is Common and Red is Royal.
    #33 again looks Caspian.
    #40 could be a few things. I can't see the bill very well. It's either Common, Forster's or Sandwich though.
    #41 is Common. The yellow bill says that. The body is a little smaller than a Royal too.
    #42 is a beautiful Caspian Tern.

    BTW, #24 looks like it has a rather large bill. You have Herring Gull down as the ID. Lesser Black-backed maybe? jw

    Nice pics.
    Happy Birding! --Chris

    By Blogger Parus, At March 13, 2008 at 1:25 AM  

  • Northern gannet seems much more likely but in Sibley it shows the juvenile having paches of light gray near the body on the underwing and much more wight near the base of the primaries. In Sibley and N Geographic it shows the brown booby with a much darker and uniform wing. However, I would go with northern gannet till some good birder from FL backs me up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 13, 2008 at 9:02 AM  

  • You know, I didn't even THINK of a N Gannet! I did some cross-referencing online and in my field guide though, and it now seems a very likely possibility.

    However, I've never seen a Gannet that close to shore. According to the Stokes guide (I don't like their guides much, but they do have some good info), Gannets are usually out at sea during the winter. Even last summer when I was in Maine, the gannets were miles offshore, and I only saw them by boat.

    Nonetheless, I think it is very possible that the bird is N Gannet, based on the picture and size of the bird. I'll keep searching though, and see if I can find any closer candidate. :-)

    Thanks for your suggestions/ideas!

    By Blogger Andrea, At March 13, 2008 at 9:47 AM  

  • You've only seen N Gannets from a boat? That's interesting. Even though they spend the winter out at sea, it's getting to be about the time when you should start seeing them from shore. The only Gannets I've ever seen have been from shore. I will guarantee that if you spend more time at the shore you will see them.
    It has to be open water though. Not a Bay or anything. You have to stand where you see only water on the horizon. Then just scope the horizon. If there's a Gannet out there, you'll find it.
    I'm pretty certain your bird is a Gannet.

    Ted, I believe a Br Booby would have a more uniformly colored wing would it not?
    I'll have to go dig out my guide and check.
    Note that this bird has a more contrasting wing pattern (kinda like a Turkey Vulture). Also, that the white belly is not sharply defined like a Booby would display.

    Happy Birding! --Chris

    By Blogger Parus, At March 13, 2008 at 11:00 AM  

  • In my guide the one of the two birds as juveniles that has the most uniform wing is the b. booby and only the adult booby has the sharply defined belly. However, this is only what I can tell from the books and if you have seen juv. gannet that looks like the bird then that is most likely what it is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 13, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

  • Oooooh, you know what? I HAVE seen one from shore, ONCE. Again, it was up in Maine last year, at a place called Seawall Beach. However, the Gannet was only a speck on the horizon thru binoculars. I totally forgot about that! We were watching them diving around a sailboat way far away. I've seen more of them (and at closer range) from boat, though, which is why it stands out in memory.

    Anywho, I'm going to count the N Gannet on my year list. Why not, you know? I'll probably miss a whole bunch of other birds, so it won't hurt. ;-)

    Happy birding,

    PS: Chris, thanks for help IDing the terns. I'll keep those things you pointed out in mind.

    By Blogger Andrea, At March 13, 2008 at 5:47 PM  

  • Sure thing Andrea! any time.

    btw, did you draw your profile pic?
    (actually, kinda dumb question cause I'll bet you did. lol)

    By Blogger Parus, At March 13, 2008 at 7:27 PM  

  • Yes, I drew my profile picture. :-)

    By Blogger Earthbird, At March 14, 2008 at 6:28 PM  

  • Hi Andrea,

    Your mystery shorebird actually isn't a shorebird at all, but a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It's kinda weird to see YRWAs on beaches, but they often forage on open lawns and such. No small shorebird has a streaked mantle in basic plumage, and overall the posture and jizz isn't very much like a shorebird. The strong flank streaking is fairly distinctive, and I think I can juuuuust barely see a bit of yellow near the shoulder.

    When I first saw the sulid picture I thought, "Wow! Brown Booby!", but I have very little experience with gannets and none at all with Brown Boobies, so I don't feel comfortable ID'ing the bird from this one photo.

    Nice shots!


    By Blogger Neil Gilbert, At March 21, 2008 at 7:10 PM  

  • You know, I should have known that was a Butterbutt, not a shorebird. There were several YRWAs flying around on the beach, but I thought that picture some kind of shorebird.

    Anywho, thanks for info!

    Happy birding. :-)

    By Blogger Earthbird, At March 22, 2008 at 9:40 AM  

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