Snowy Plover – That Leaves One

The family took a few days and made a road trip to Gulf Shores, AL.  Most of the time was spent lounging on the beach, but for the first couple of hours each day I went birding. You gotta love the Central Time Zone for birding in the morning.

I birded a local preserve, a National Wildlife Refuge, and the beach outside the condo. Each has its own story and I’ll be relating them over the next few weeks.

I think I’ve related previously I’m at that stage of birding where I won’t be seeing many new life birds East of the Rockies. This trip had three possibilities – BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH was possible, SNOWY PLOVER would be a long shot, and SWALLOW-TAILED KITE that would have taken work. And since this was a family vacation I wasn’t going to work hard for birds.

I did see a SNOWY PLOVER – For all of 30 seconds.

The Snowy Plover was seen on the shoreline at the Bon Secour National Refugee. I had planned to bird around Fort Morgan State Historic Site but nowhere in their webpage did I noticed they didn’t open until 8AM. And I checked.

So I went back to Bon Secour where I was going to stop anyway.

Storm 073116
I had to keep an eye out for an approaching storm which would have driven me from Fort Morgan anyway. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge 7/31/16

With the approaching storm I decided to walk the shoreline looking for shorebirds, particular SANDERLINGS.

Mainly though there were gulls and terns flying along the edge of the Gulf.

SATE 073116
Typical view of the flying terns. White forehead, dark primaries, dark bill. Offbeat Royal Tern call. I’ll call it a Sandwich Tern. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge 7/31/16

Walking along the beach I came across a WILLET. I was up in the sand away from the water as it walked along the water’s edge.

WILL 073116 (1)
A lone Willet feeding along the water’s edge. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge 7/31/16
WILL 073116 (2)
The Willet ran around me and continued to feed up the shore. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge 7/31/16

While watching the Willet a jogger flushed a small bird that flew in about 20 feet away. At first it didn’t notice me which gave me a few seconds to positively ID it and take a few photos.

At first I thought it was going to be a lone Sanderling but I immediately knew it was a Snowy Plover. Dark Bill, half chest band, dark legs, and most importantly it blended in with the sand. If I hadn’t seen it fly in I don’t think I would have noticed it.

SNPL 073116 Snowy Plover
As good of photo of the Snowy Plover as I could get in our brief encounter. As you can see it noticed me quickly upon landing. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge 7/31/16

It didn’t take long for it to notice me standing close. After 20-30 seconds it did and flew away. I watched it fly up the beach but the distance and the approaching storm put off a chase.

And that leaves one.

The Mountain Plover is the only regularly occurring plover in the lower US that I haven’t seen.

For comparison of features following are photos of other small plovers I’ve seen over the years.

SEPL Franklin Township Park 2
Semipalmated Plover – Marion County IN 8/14/15
WIPL 062214
Wilson’s Plover – Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge TX 6/22/14
PIPL 072110
Piping Plover – Very similar to Snowy Plover – Cape Cod MA 7/21/10

2 Replies to “Snowy Plover – That Leaves One”

  1. Great find! Aren’t encounters like that the best? Your Willet-in-the-surf with water trailing off of its feet is a particularly good action shot, too.

    1. Yes, encounters like that are the best. That’s why I haven’t chased a bird in years. I really should spend more time on the photos since I hadn’t even noticed the water off the feet. I just knew I liked that shot better than the others.

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