Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving Birds From the Beach

I spent last week at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, where I spend every Thanksgiving. The birding is always great there at any season and offers a change of pace from inland piedmont birding.
Reports from the northeastern United States from a couple of weeks ago indicated eastern invasions of both Franklin’s gulls and cave swallows. Both are western species that show up in large numbers on the east coast every few years. I spent a good amount of time looking for both but I didn't find any. All the time in the field wasn’t for naught though. I was able to reconnect with a couple of shorebird friends that I have gotten to know over the years.
A flock of 17 American oystercatchers contained two banded individuals. Through a scope I was able to read the lettered code on each and determined both were birds that I have seen before. In fact, the bird with “XI” on each leg has been wintering at Ocean Isle Beach for years after spending the nesting seasons at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The other bird, “05” is from New Jersey and also apparently has adopted Ocean Isle as its winter retreat also.  “XI” seems to like areas where birders frequent too. That bird has been re-sighted 28 times since it was a chick in 2007. For more information on the work being done with American oystercatchers, go to http://amoywg.org/
I get a feeling of contentment whenever I can report resighting a banded bird. It lets me know they are living their lives and doing OK.
One afternoon I had a pleasant surprise when an American golden-plover decided to drop in on the first fairway of Brick Landing Golf Course on its way to South America. Golden-plovers are regular but uncommon migrants through the Carolinas so it is always a treat to see one. I was able to study this bird at leisure as it picked insects off the short grass.
And there is news from back home too. I have reports of three hummingbirds coming to feeders from counties surrounding Mecklenburg , but none as yet from that county. I expect to receive some more this weekend. Remember to keep those feeders
up and fresh.

Oystercatchers are among the most striking of shorebirds. There is little chance of a mis-identification. 
American Oystercatcher by John Ennis

Note the green leg bands on the adult bird below. The color indicates which state the bird was banded in.
American Oystercatcher by John Ennis


American golden-plovers are uncommon migrants thru the Carolinas, and can occur from the coast to the mountains. The similar black-bellied plover is generally more coastal but may wander inland too. Goldens are a daintier bird than the black-belllieds. 
American Golden-plover by John Ennis

Note the heavier, thicker bill on the black-bellied below. The species is also larger and bulkier than the golden-plover.

Black-bellied Plover by Jeff Lewis

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