Category Archives: Shorebirds

A Shorebird Named Marble

Hills Beach, Biddeford, ME | 1 Dec 2016

If you've been following my nature notes for the past few months, you're no doubt aware that I've been steadily tracking the presence of a single Marbled Godwit -- a bird Jenny and I have nicknamed "Marble" -- since late August. On Thursday, December 15th, I observed Marble on a mudflat in Biddeford Pool in the company of some Herring Gulls. The following day there was no sign of Marble, and my subsequent near-daily attempts to locate my cinnamon-colored companion have come up empty. I wish I could share the next chapter in Marble's journey, but what happened Thursday night, when wind chill values dipped to nearly -20°F, is a mystery.

After such a long stay in the Biddeford area (112+ days by my count), did Marble decide to follow the lead of so many other shorebirds (like Red Knots and Black-bellied Plovers) and finally head south? Did a local raptor (Feisty?) turn Marble into a white-season feast? What do you think happened? Regardless, I'm confident that his/her spirit, if not physical form, lives on.

This year, I spent more time watching Marble than any other individual bird. May these photos provide a window into the life of one impressive and inspiring shorebird.

To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Shorebirds: Red Knot

Photo of Red Knot (Aug)
juvenile Red Knot | Biddeford, ME | 25 Aug 2016

Red Knots migrate incredible distances. For example, individuals of one subspecies (rufa) are known to travel from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic and back each year, or roughly 9,000 miles annually.

Typically absent from inland locations, Red Knots may occur by the hundreds at select coastal stopover sites, like some beaches on outer Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In contrast, here in southern Maine, the largest flock of Red Knots I've ever seen numbered 40 birds, but most often I see just a few, if I see any at all.

Though it's hard to top the beauty and easy identification of a fully red-chested adult, juvenile Red Knots are striking in their own right. However, to appreciate their white-edged back and wing feathers you'll need a close look. This is one reason birders living near the coast often carry around spotting scopes, so they can see these fine details from a distance, without putting undue pressure on the birds.

To learn more about these compact and powerful peeps, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Note: I can't promise Red Knots, but if you'd like to go birding with me, keep an eye on my upcoming walks or consider hiring me for a custom birding workshop.

Shorebirds: Solitary Sandpiper

Photo of Solitary Sandpiper

Wintering in Central and South America, and summering/breeding in Canada and Alaska, Solitary Sandpipers occur in New England during migration, primarily in the month of May, and then from mid-July through mid-October. Their preference for exposed, muddy edges of freshwater wetlands (or even puddles), allows them to utilize sites well inland, unlike many shorebird species who rely on coastal locations for foraging.

Solitary Sandpipers have white-speckled backs (compare with the dark backs of Spotted Sandpipers), dull yellow/green legs (compare with the bright legs of Lesser Yellowlegs), a white eye-ring, and a dark, medium-length bill. Solitaries move about with jerking head movements (whereas Spotted Sandpipers continuously bob their tails).

To learn more about Solitary Sandpipers, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Shorebirds: Marbled Godwit

Photo of Marbled Godwit

Birding as much as I do, it's a rare day that I observe a new-to-me species without traveling far afield. Last Saturday was one of those rare days. Following up on a local birder's Friday report of a Marbled Godwit at Hills Beach in Biddeford, I, along with a couple of other birders, arrived as the tide was falling and the muddy edges of the Basket Island Causeway were becoming exposed. Before long we all caught sight of the bird and watched her (or him) feeding among an assortment of much smaller shorebirds.

As far as shorebirds go, Marbled Godwits are big and tall. I loved watching while she used her long up-swept, bi-colored bill to probe deep into the mud, sometimes catching a glimpse of a long sand worm (or worm-like creature) being pulled up and promptly swallowed.

When I visited the causeway yesterday, she was still present. I took the last four photos during a brief rain storm. Some of the poses I witnessed were too fun not to share. To learn more about Marbled Godwits, visit All About Birds.

To view the following images in full-size, click here.