Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Red Knot - Calidris Cantus

The Red Knot is a medium sized shore bird, chunky and short legged, quite similar to a Dowitcher but with a shorter bill; its winter plumage is grayish.  Dowitcher plumage is mostly light brownish.   The Knot is a tad smaller than a Dowitcher, and to confuse the identification process both birds have similar feeding strategies such as repeated, rapid probing into wet sand.

A few days ago on a drizzly, foggy morning I was standing on the edge of the pickleweed at the southern end of Morro Bay peering intently at a little gray bird probing in the sand, hoping the image in my binoculars was a Red Knot.  Of course at this time of year there is no redish color; also it would have been helpful if there had been a Dowitcher for comparison.   I was 90% certain it was a Red Knot, well maybe only 85% certain.  Even though it was foggy, fortune shined when a knowledgeable birder came upon the scene and confirmed my identification.  I was delighted with the sighting and had no idea, until I got home and began an internet search, that this sweet little bird was currently in a struggle for survival.

 From its breeding grounds in the high Arctic, the Red Knot makes a 9300 mile journey to its winter grounds in southern South America. Along the way they need to stop two or three times to refuel.  Humans actions or inaction at two of their primary stopovers are directly responsible for the rapid decline of the species.  If you would like more information on the plight of the Red Knot
go to

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Laguna Lake Revisited

        Laguna Lake August 19, 2013
Yesterday one of the top birders posted a list of eleven birds that he had seen at Laguna Lake.  This morning I set out to see how many of the eleven I could find.  I was aware the drought had affected the lake level, but was not prepared for the painful reality.  Laguna Lake was now a mere shadow if its former self.
         Laguna Lake September 9, 2014
The majority of the lake was dry.  The above photo was taken from the edge of the former lake.  For the moment there is a small area of water that supports a variety of water and shore birds.  From the list of eleven species I spotted seven. 
 American Avocet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, and a Spotted Sandpiper fed in the muck along the edge.  About 35 White Pelican were resting on an emerging sandbar or flying directly overhead, low enough to hear the swoosh of their wings.  A large gaggle of Canada Goose were about, plus the resident Snow Goose. The morning birding left me with a troubling question.  What will happen to the birds when the water is completely gone?