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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

6:30-7:00am RISD Beach, Barrington, RI 9/11/11 Sunny 70'

A Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpipers on the mud

The day before yesterday we took an early morning bird walk with our mother and grandfather who was staying over at our house. It was a very successful walk! There were many Mallards dabbling at the surface of the marsh water. In between the ducks swam a smaller, stubby billed bird, which we identified as a Pied-billed Grebe, presumably the same grebe which was reported here by another birder on the 9th.

A dowitcher flew up from a grassy strip of mud calling. Scanning the mudflats I re-found the dowitcher further off. Looking at it more closely I realized that it wasn't the right shape for one of the common Short-billed Dowitchers. The most notable feature of this particular bird was the chunky back, suggesting that it had just eaten a grapefruit. Grapefruits are the 1# favorite food of the much less common Long-billed Dowitcher, no, I'm just kidding they generally don't eat grapefruits but prefer crustaceans, worms and insects (all of which can be found in great supply at this local). But despite their anti-citrus diet the chunky appearance is one of the main field marks of the LBD. LBD is so extremely similar to its sister species the SBD that it was long thought to be one species, known simply as the Dowitcher.

The main way to ID a dowitcher is the call. Luckily we had heard the call which was a quick high pitched "queek queek queek-queek queek". It sounded much more similar to LBD's call then the pleasant mellow "Que,e,e-que,e,e-que,e,e". I managed to get close enough to get some reasonable photos of it.

Notice the chunky shape of this Dowitcher.

If this IS a Long-billed Dowitcher it will be the first report of one in Rhode Island this year (though one was seen today at Quicksand Pond). Maybe it was the same bird.

The thick black bars on the tail is a good clue to this bird identity. The Short Billed Dowitcher has slimmer, more delicate black barring.

The only other highlight was a single Little Blue Heron and a fly-by falcon species. Looking through my photos afterwards I was surprised to find a second Little Blue Heron, which I had some how previously overlooked.

Later that morning we returned to RISD with the rest of my family. We found the dowitcher feeding where we had first seen it fly up from. This time it had been joined on its favorite strip of mud by both a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Semipalmated Sandpiper. I managed to get some better photographs of it along with some nice photos of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers and the Green Heron.

Other highlights on this later walk at RISD included a male Belted Kingfisher and a male Red-winged Blackbird. It was the first blackbird I have seen in ages!

While looking through photos of the dowitcher at home, I discovered a picture containing a White-rumped Sandpiper, which I had previously identified as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. If I had had another peep next to it to compare sizes I would have noticed a WRS instantly.


I am still not 100% certain that the dowitcher was a LBD but am precisely 97% certain. If it is what I think it is, it will be a life bird! I would appreciate any input you may have on this dowitchers ID.

A Green Heron was in yesterdays photo quiz. Good job to any one who spotted and identified the heron who was hiding at the top of the tree right in the center of the photograph.

Here is your next photo quiz!
This photo was taken at RISD Beach today. I see 4 species here. What are they? Click on the photo to get a better look.

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