Thursday, September 16, 2021

Semipalmated Plover

One of the challenges of finding new birds is knowing what to look for. Some bird species look amazingly alike and have only small differences that are not readily evident, particularly if you are not aware of them. For example, last weekend I was at San Eliju Lagoon and was taking a photo of a brown bird with a curved bill that turned out to be a long-billed curlew. I'd seen and photographed one at a distance about a year ago, but I wasn't sure that was the bird I was photographing. Then as I looked at my photos later I noticed I skipped to a different bird that looked very similar and that I probably thought was the same bird, or one right next to it. Then I noticed in the photo that the bird had a straight bill and had to be a different species. It turned out to be a marbled godwit, a bird I'd never seen before. 

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Salton Sea seawall and afterwards happened across an on-line eBird survey taken at the seawall the same day I'd been there. The survey mentioned a bunch of birds I didn't see when I was there, including birds I'd never seen before. So I looked up photos of each bird and was surprised at some of them. One of the surprises was the semipalmated plover, a bird I'd never heard of before. It looked like a small, immature killdeer. If I'd seen one, I probably would have thought it a killdeer. But now armed with that new knowledge, I specifically looked for the semipalmated plover at San Elijjo and saw a number of them. They are very small and my photos were at great distance, so getting good photos of them was difficult, particularly as I was shooting without a tripod. 
The semipalmated plover has a brown/gray back and wings, a white belly and breast, a black neckband, a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes, orange legs, and a short orange and black bill. 
They breed in northern Canada and Alaska and winter in the coastal areas of the southern U.S., the Caribbean and much of South America. 
This is a range map for the semipalmated plover from Wikipedia. Orange is breeding (summer), yellow is migration, and blue is non-breeding (winter). 

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