This week I’m again walking the Coastside Trail around Half Moon Bay, then over Pillar Point to Moss Beach – looking for birds, mostly autumn migtants. Tuesday was the longest walking day (more than 7 miles). The weather was perfectly cool and cloudy with no wind.
As odd as it seems, we got really excited about blackbirds! That’s because this first photo is of a Tricolored Blackbird, and the second shows a flock with a few Red-winged Blackbirds mixed in. Since it’s not breeding season, the epaulettes are mostly hidden. But if you look at the tricolored bird’s shoulder, you’ll see a pale white stripe. This is the edge of the red patch and distinguises it (among other characteristics) from the red-winged species. What was exciting was that we had just begun our walk and found so many Tri-colored Blackbirds together, and the first time I’ve ever seen one. Good start. More later.”
This name evokes an image of an inebriated medieval peddler hawking gossip along with his wares. From the first time I heard it, the name fascinated me, and hence the bird with this name does, to0.
The wandering tattler (Tringa incana) is a medium-sized sandpiper with a white eyebrow above a dark eye, yellow legs, beautiful gray flight feathers, and a white belly. In addition to the color pattern, this bird is easy to spot because it doesn’t just walk along the shore looking for insects and tidbits to eat — it bobs and teeters as it walks. It looks a bit inebriated.
Both times I’ve seen a wandering tattler it’s been in September, single birds migrating south from breeding in the mountains of northwestern Alaska and Canada. The good news is that its range is so widespread that its conservation status (IUCN) is Least Concern.
According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds, the “wandering” part of the name comes from its widespread occurrence over the Pacific ocean. The “tattler” part refers to its alarm call which alerts other birds to danger. In French, it’s called a “chevalier errant” and in Spanish, “playero vagabundo.”
All great names, and so apropos, for a shorebird that teeters along coastlines and into mountains from Alaska to Chile to the islands of the Pacific.
And, speaking of wandering tattlers, I’ll be walking the Coastside Trail along Half Moon Bay again with Slow Adventure this week and hope to post my best photos along the way.
Just sharing good news.
A photo that I took in March of a young Brandt’s cormorant at the Coast Guard Breakwater has won 1st place in the Sanctuary Life category of the National Marine Sanctuaries’ photo contest Get Into Your Sanctuary. I’m surprised and pleased that an everyday coastal bird (that I happen to like) won!
My thanks to the contest organizers and to everyone who has supported my sharing of Monterey Bay experiences.
During low-tide walks this week sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus) have been the dominant life form. Everywhere dotting the exposed sand were white tests (as in dead shells), soft deep-purple disks (the healthy live ones), and shapely sand traces (from under-sand burrowing). The feeding must be good and the living easy on this beach. (I just learned that more than 500 individuals can crowd into a square yard!)
Sand dollars are often collected as souvenirs and used in art projects. The white tests are beautiful (although several people collecting the purplish shells didn’t realize these were living animals).
To counter the notion of sand dollars as art, I thought I’d post the art created by sand dollars. Don’t you think their living works are lovelier than those adorning our bureaus and walls?
References & Resources
If you want to learn more about our Pacific coast sand dollar, visit this nicely done San Francisco State biogeography class post from 2005.