#374 - Long-billed Dowitcher

I set out with the kids for a quick trip to the coast.  There wasn't much close by in the way of rarities, and I didn't have the time necessary to go anywhere that did.  So, what to do?  Wesley had never seen a few wintering birds over by Brigantine, and I could always use a new look or better photos, so why not chase a lifer down for him...

Before we arrived in Brigantine, we did take a side-trip to where some American Avocets were hanging out, which are seasonally rare.  I found them rather quickly and after 20 minutes of hanging out, moved on.  They were great looks, just across a creek.  

American Avocets

American Avocets

American Avocets

We moved on to our wintering shorebird spot.  We walked down a 1/4 mile sand road to where it opens to the water.  I could see tons of shorebirds across the water - damn.  A quick look in the binocular showed me that Wesley's lifers were in fact, way out there.

I had heard a high pitched whistle/scream and turned.  A few American Oystercatchers flew by.  I snapped a few quick photos than tracked them as one broke off and landed at the edge of the water on the peninsula we stood upon.

American Oystercatchers

American Oystercatcher

Lo and behold, he landed near a huddled up mass of sleeping shorebirds I had yet to see.  We walked.  As we got closer, the pace slowed.  Eventually, I was crouched down; my butt touching my heels and my legs on fire.  Sure enough, among the gray Western Willets, there was color.  The willets were a lifer for Wes, but he was more interested in the godwits and we got em!

Western Willets and Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwit spreading its wings.

Shy Marbled Godwit

Western Willet

Marbled Godwit

I had hoped a godwit would separate from the pack for an individual shot, but it didn't and my legs couldn't take it anymore.  I squat-waddled my way out of what I deemed a decent range to not flush them and succeeded.  They went about their business of hudding their heads as if I was never there.

Sleeping Marbled Godwit

A Savannah Sparrow flew in close enough for a quick photo.  I'm thinking its an Ipswich sub-species.

Savannah Sparrow

Black-bellied Plover

On the way out, I noticed a group of Black-bellied Plovers (above) and decided to take a photo... Most of my good plover shots are on jetties, so I figured I'd grab something with a different background.  While laying in the sand, I noticed a different shorebird.  I took a photo.  I didn't know what it was.  I thought Red Knot, and moved on.  I would later find out that I was way off on my original ID, but couldn't figure it out.  After much consultation, it turns out that it was a "runty" Long-billed Dowitcher.  This was actually a LIFER for me!  That exclamation point is a bit mis-leading.  It was anticlamactic, and honestly I still can't tell you how to separate this individual from a short-billed dowitcher.  I have some studying to do.  *Nobody said this would be an educational addition to the blog.  :)

Long-billed Dowitcher

I did some calculating and had about 90 minutes to kill, so why not take a loop around "Brig."  Nothing amazing had been seen there recently, but you just never know with Brig.  In my mind, I thought about a close Peregrine, a Golden Eagle, or an American Bittern which I missed during my entire 2015 season!  None of these would happen for me.  We rushed through as it was pretty dead, but I grabbed these two photos.

Northern Pintail

Bald Eagle

In the end, a lifer is a lifer and it puts me one closer to my goal of 400 ABA before the year is done.  Personally, the highlight of the day was the Marbled Godwits.  The sun was warm, the air was fresh, and I spent the day with my boys!

...step into the outdoors.