Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lower Church Lake - er...Mudflat

Monday I stopped by Lower Church Lake at lunch, I hadn't stopped there in a while, and wanted to see if anything was stirring. It turned out that before I could even get to a view of the lake I had disturbed this beautiful dark Rufous-morph Red-tail Hawk from its perch. It gave me a few close passes as it lazily rode a thermal higher. A few moments later a smaller light-morph western Red-tail joined it, and they both headed to the south east and out of view. This bird has been around a bit, either taking a break from migrating or just enjoying what had been beautiful weather. Looking out my office window today I see snow at around 6500-7000 feet, so this bird may have moved on or be thinking that option over seriously this afternoon.

I think the above picture really shows off how well their skulls are shaped as a natural visor. On a clear afternoon like Monday's - the usefulness was apparent.

Below are a few shots of a group of Long-billed Dowitchers I found at the lake-turned mudflat.

Not only are these birds cool to look at for their aptly named long bills, but check out the one going face deep in the soft mud! It is no wonder some of the others are busy preening.

One thing I learned while reading up on Dowitchers was that the white pattern on their backs helps to distinguish them from other similarly sized shorebirds. It won't do much good on a Long-billed Short-billed comparison, but can rule out other species at a distance, and it doesn't look half bad either!

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