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A few birds from the beach. We also saw Marbled Godwits, Bald Eagles and a Peregrine Falcon that dived on a flock of peeps.

I’ve never been very good at identifying shorebirds. It used to be that I birded with some experienced birders and I could muddle my way through the peeps and such but not anymore. And this time of year, the birds are in winter plumage so very few clear ID marks stand out for me. Someday I’d like to go to Alaska in the late spring and see the breeding shorebirds decked out in all their fine feathered plumage. But for now I will have to settle for wintering birds on the Washington coast once in a while.

There are a few species of small sandpipers that are often lumped together as ‘peeps’. The three species look similar and can be difficult to identify. I used to look at lots of shorebirds and got so I could remember the key things to look for but it’s been so long that I’ve lost much of that info. Groups of shorebirds are fascinating to watch as they run back and forth feeding and leap into the air and do it all as one big mass. I found this large group that had hundreds of birds at the Ocean City beach access a little south of where we were staying. We saw smaller flocks on our beach. The dogs stayed in the car while I watched and photographed the birds on the incoming tide. I stayed in one place and the birds came ever closer with the waves. There were other people walking and fishing and driving on the beach and nothing seemed to bother them. I think these birds are Western Sandpipers but I may be wrong.

In Florida, every night after dinner, we would walk to the beach. Surprisingly most other beach goers were gone by then. Just before the moment when the sun went down, a few people would wander back and all facing the sun, would raise a glass in a toast to another day well lived. It was a wonderful ritual – maybe one that we should practice at home as well as on vacation.

Ken would fish and I would walk on the beach – hoping to find interesting sea shells and watching the birds. At Sanibel, no cars are allowed to drive on the beach and almost no one takes dogs to the beach and then they are on leashses for the most part. These two factors must contribute to the tameness of the birds. Shorebirds were remarkably approachable. It’s the only place I’ve been where I could get good photos of these migratory wonders.

I have always struggled with shorebird ID. Some of these birds were in a transistional plumage – going from winter to breeding plumage – this made ID even harder for me. Field guide pictures show one or ther other generally, not the transistion. I was surprised to see that many of the species on the SE coast were the same as in the Pacific NW.


Willets relfecting the warm light of the sun





A plover – Black-bellied or American Golden?




Brown Pelicans flew by the beach all the time.


And so did the shorebirds.


Ruddy Turnstone








A gull. I don’t even try to identify immature gulls.


There’s a dowitcher in the middle of this group. Long-billed or Short-billed?






We stayed six days at Malheur NWR. Originally we had intended to stay maybe three days and then move on to the Redwoods and southern Oregon however the long days in the truck were really wearing and we were enjoying Malheur very much despite weather that ranged from rain to snow to hail with lots of high winds thrown in just for fun. Most of the weather came in sudden bursts with sun breaks in between. We generally timed our outings to avoid the drenching rains and managed to get in good birding, some nice walks and a brief bike ride. Sadly the weather conditions did not make for good photography conditions. I made the best of it when I could.


Frenchglen is a must stop in that part of Oregon. It has a school, a BLM office, a store that is rarely open and then with a surly shopkeeper, and a historic hotel. And it is usually swarming with birders!


Much of our birding was done from the truck in order to avoid wind and rain. Note the various layers of clothing. We wore many combinations in order to stay warm. I was happy to have my rubber boots with me.


White-faced Ibises. There were many thousands of them, it seemed.




The Hooded Warbler. If you look at your range maps, you will notice that this bird should not be in SE Oregon. Going through Frenchglen one morning we saw lots of birders searching with their binos; we even ran into birding friends from the Walla Walla area. Turns out everyone was searching for the Hooded Warbler that had been seen the day before. Alas, we did not find it despite tromping around in the wet grass and brush for an hour or more. The next day, at the P Ranch, as I rode by on Ken’s bike, a man said, ‘Hey, are you interested in a Hooded Warbler?” Screech, went the brakes! Oh yeah. What a find.



My, what big ears you have.


Lots of nesting shorebirds including this Black-necked Stilt.


The air was often full of the sound of winnowing Snipes.


I know, it’s hard to see however there is a Sandhill Crane on a nest down there.


Magnificent landscapes everywhere we turned. And water. So much water.


This intersting allium had me stumped. I still don’t know its species. It was on top of a basalt mesa.


One in full bloom.




Here you can see the outlines of the tops of the basalt columns that make up the mesa.


The rains produced lots of watering holes.
























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