A studio for bird study

Tag: ornithology

Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) Feeding on a Jellyfish

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

For the past two weeks I stayed at a small cabin along the Bristol Bay coast of the Alaska Peninsula near the village of Egegik.  I was part of an expedition to trap staging Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) led by the shorebird aficionado Dan Ruthrauff of USGS, accompanied by Lucas DeCicco, Stuart Fety, and Jaime Welfelt. We had poor luck with godwits, but had a spectacular time with the avifauna that was present. I have a lot of content to share from the expedition, and will start by sharing a clip of a Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) feeding on a beached Hydromedusae (Jellyfish).

Although not mentioned in any literature on diet of the Black-bellied Plover (so far as I’ve found), there is discussion of the behavior for Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis; Gill et al. 2002). Apparently the birds feed on the gonads of washed up jellyfish. There were many jellyfish that were left on the tidal flats each day as the tide receded, providing an ample food source for staging plovers preparing for the next leg of their fall migration.

Referenced literature:

Gill, Robert E., Pavel S. Tomkovich and Brian J. McCaffery. (2002). Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/rocsan

DOI: 10.2173/bna.686

 

Juvenile Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in Flight

by Bryce W. Robinson

I’ve included two photos of in-flight juvenile Whimbrel that I took in the first week of August 2016. I’m sharing these images for the simple reason of illustrating how a young juvenile differs from an adult. The age of these birds is told by the overall fresh, clean plumage and relatively short bill. It’s that simple in August. In a few months the bills will grow to a length comparable to the adults and determining age will become more difficult.

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Black Hawk Eagle Painting for Belize Raptor Center

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Black Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus). 11 x 15″ Gouache on paper.

My friend Aron came to me recently to ask for a favor; an illustration for a silent auction to benefit a small raptor education center in Belize. The Belize Raptor Center is an organization whose primary focus is to showcase indigenous Belizean species as the most ecologically and economically important class of wildlife in the country.

The benefit will be held in Salt Lake City on 8 October at Church and State from 7-10 PM. There will be a silent auction, live music, and best of all live birds. If you’re in Salt Lake City, be there.

Here are a few details about the Belize Raptor Center from their website:

MISSON: Educate and inspire conservation of birds of prey and their habitat, using permitted non releasable raptors. Rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned birds of prey.

SUMMARY: Our mission is important because in Belize, raptors are highly persecuted due to the many myths and misconceptions that surround them. Although they are protected in the United States, the vast majority of them migrate south for the winter and face dangers such as shooting, poisoning, and habitat loss…. Only though proper education can we hope to protect them.

GOAL: We are planning to construct a brand new facility that will serve as the Visitor Center for Belize Raptor Center. Currently the center houses 6 birds of prey that are taken off-site to educate schoolchildren about the importance of raptor conservation. There will be a museum and education center as well as an indoor flight space for a free-flighted bird show – the first of its kind in Belize.

THE FACILITY: The funding will go towards the costs of labor and materials for the Visitor Center. The entire establishment is completely off-grid; solar power and rain/well water keep expenses low. Income from the gift shop and paid programs will help keep our facility self sustaining after the initial costs of building the visitor center.

If you’re interested in the painting to help the Belize Raptor Center reach their goal, but can’t attend the benefit in Salt Lake City, feel free to contact the Belize Raptor Center or me.

Find them on Facebook

Contact: belizeraptorcenterATgmail.com

http://www.belizeraptorcenter.com/our-mission/

Birding Kachemak Bay, Alaska, by Boat

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) with a bill full of fish to take back to its burrow to feed young. Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

I had the pleasure of taking a few days to visit Homer, Alaska and get in some much needed birding on the southcentral Alaskan coast. I was after Alaska state bird additions, as well as a few potential lifers. I needed to get on a boat so I scheduled a trip with Bay Excursions for a morning around the bay.

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Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea). Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

I was after both Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) and Red-faced Cormorant (Phalocrocorax urile). Karl, who leads the trip and captains the boat, mentioned concern that it was too late for Kittlitz’s and that the cormorants were scarce in the bay this year. With the poor forecast, I still thought it equitable to make the trip and gain experience with other birds. Anytime on a boat, in good weather, is equitable.

Homer is great. There are plenty of camping spots right on the spit. I camped on the shore, woke up in the morning, and had a five minute walk to the boat ramp where I boarded and we set off. Joining me were the expected crew of older folks with cameras and an excitement for seeing wildlife. But they weren’t necessarily birders, so I knew that I was outnumbered and would have to accept that we wouldn’t be spending much time studying murrelet behavior, shearwater ID, or following any curiosities I’d have. Such is birding on a boat I suppose.

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Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus). Paler individual on the left cause pause in hopes of it being a Kittlitz’s, but no luck. Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

Immediately out of the harbor we began to see murrelets. I checked every bird, and for a while Karl paused to give the folks on the boat good looks at the endearing birds. After a short time the group grew tired of the murrelets so we unfortunately cruised by too many groups that I wanted to spend a little more time with in hopes of a random Kittlitz’s popping up amongst the marbled.

I was able to get the boat stopped for some shearwaters. I caught a handful of birds cruising about 1 km west, and once the boat had stopped a few had circled us and I was able to ID them as Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea). We spotted one set on the water that happened to be a Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris). With my limited experience observing procellariids on the water I felt satisfied with the short encounter.

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Juvenile Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) alone on the water. Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

One of the neatest birds we found on the water was a juvenile Horned Puffin. It’s bill was extremely small, nothing like the ornate bill of a matured bird.

Some of the strangest birds to encounter from the boat were Song Sparrows on every island we passed. I also caught a Steller’s Jay in the air above a larger island with some conifers. Island living passerines, neat to see.

Overall I was happy with the few hours on the water. I do think that the trip deserves more time, as I could have likely spent another few hours on the bay watching alcids and looking for a Red-faced Cormorant. I also would have liked to venture a bit farther out of the bay to encounter more shearwaters, and whatever else we might have happened upon farther out to sea. In the end I missed my two hopefuls, but the time on the water was excellent. I’ll be back again when the time is right for the missed species.