The 30th Shorebird Festival in Charleston, Oregon concluded on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. It was only the 2nd one I've been to, the first being 5 years ago.
Thanks to Coos Bay area trip leaders on Saturday, Tim Rodenkirk and Joe Metzler, I finally know how to tell Least from Western Sandpipers with some certainty. Leasts have a straight line demarcation between their speckled breast and unspeckled belly. And they have light-colored legs. Westerns have snow white undersides with uneven streaking if they have any streaking at all this time of year. And dark legs.
|Check out those legs!|
If you can see the backs, juvenile Westerns have rusty scapulars while juvenile Leasts have rufous all over their backs.
|Snowy white undersides and dark legs = Western Sandpipers|
|Rusty scapulars on the Western on the left make it a juvenile|
At another site (I never knew where we were), we found a group of Pectoral Sandpipers. They look like giant Least Sandpipers.
The star of the show, at least at Friday night's program and always for me, is the Black Oystercatcher. We saw them several places but I only got one photo... at Simpson Reef, where we also saw incredibly colorful Harlequin Ducks.
But before the shorebirding began, we looked at grebes and a loon on the bay right across from the host OIMB (Oregon Institute of Marine Biology). They were far away. Thanks to Paul Sullivan for verifying what they are and why.
Red-necked Grebe: red neck, white cheek, dagger bill
Pacific Loon: clean line dividing the white fore neck from the dark hind neck, a dark cheek, and a fairly symmetrical bill.
The Heerman's Gull was closer...
And kind enough to hang out around a young Western Gull for a size comparison...
|Western Gull left, Heerman's Gull right|
Actually, I think the Heerman's was hoping to share the Western Gull's crab...
|"It does look tasty..."|
On Sunday, I took the Bandon field trip with trip leaders Joe Metzler and Dawn Harris. A Wandering Tattler stood on a rock to give us a good chance at seeing its gray body and yellow legs. It did not, however, bob up and down as I have seen them do. Maybe it was as tired as I was becoming.
There were more Sandpipers and Plovers to be seen, plus, at a Coast Guard station, many Black Turnstones.
Our guides were very knowledgeable about far more than the birds in the area and could answer any question. Joe talked about the geology, how to read rabbit tracks in the sand, why the buoys and reader boards in the harbor have red and green lights on them (to mark the channel), where the rivers flow and how high they sometimes get... and just about anything else to do with coastal southern Oregon.
|Birders listening to trip leaders Tim and Joe on Saturday|
After the field trips were over Sunday, I wandered back to the dike where we had viewed the Red-necked Grebes and Pacific Loon and tried to see if I could identify them on my own, comfortably seated on the rocks. What I found was a bird that looked, to me, like a Pacific Loon with an all white neck. Thanks to Bob Archer and Paul Sullivan for correcting me, with reasons: frosty nape and crown, a pale cheek, and a bill that is flat on top, with the bottom bill angling up to meet it.
|When you click on this photo to enlarge it, you can see the crown peaks toward the back, another clue that it is a Red-throated Loon.|
How could I have lived so long and still have so many questions?
It was a great festival. I learned a lot. There were even some birds I knew without having to ask anyone. Like this Great Blue Heron standing motionless late Sunday afternoon.
Any more corrections or additions on any of the ids of these birds is most welcome. Thanks to all who have responded so far. And many thanks to all the folks who helped me out at the Festival!