Here we have the great blogger and science chimp Julie Zickefoose examining a horseshoe crab that young Dakota found--Dakota came along on the trip with Bird Freak and started his own blog this summer: Dakota's All Natural Experience--It’s like the “Jeff Corwin Experience”…Only Smaller. For Julie's wisdom on horseshoe crabs, check out her blog entry here.
And a mini Jeff Corwin he is! Dakota had a knack for finding horseshoe crabs of all sizes. For those curious, above is the underbelly of those funky lookin' crabs. These are also the horseshoe crabs that are central to the red knot debate.
I love birding along coasts on warm days. There's something about watching a bunch of crazy looking birds (like the willet and dowitchers in the above photo). Willets always throw me. I first saw them on the east coast, so I associated them with beaches, but we can see them in western Minnesota and the Dakotas. They always throw me when I see them in the prairie.
My buddy Clay zeroed in on the very light colored dowitcher above right away and I followed to digiscope it. At first we weren't sure if it was really light from wear on its feathers or if it's a leucistic bird. I sent the photo to Doug Buri who knows shorebirds better than I do and he seems to think it's a leucistic bird.
While focusing on the shorebirds, the tide quickly swept in. I was digivideoing these shorebirds (notice the different feeding techniques. The largest bird is a Hudsonian godwit and it's surrounded by short-billed dowitchers--note how both species use their incredibly long bill to probe deeply into the sand. You'll also see a colorful ruddy turnstone that has a smaller bill--note how it seems to skim the surface of the sand). Anyway, while filming, I felt a rush of water and the tide had come in. I turned around and many of the other bloggers were overcome with the tide.
Another interesting bird was this herring gull with a beak full of clam. This bird kept flying up in the air, dropping the clam, and then following it to the ground. It was trying to drop the clam to crack it open to have access to the gooey goodness inside. Alas, this is not the brightest gull on the string. Other gulls had figured out that parking lots accomplished this task quickly. This bird seemed intent on dropping the clam over the sand. I watched it drop the clam from high in the air and by the sixth attempt I had lost interest. Not sure how long the gull kept this up or if ever got at the desired insides.
I was trying to get a shot of the semi-palmated plover (the bird on the right) when I noticed the tired sandpiper behind it--the bird is so tired, it can't even tuck its bill into shoulder. I'm not sure of the species, if I had to guess based on size, I would say least sandpiper, but whatever it is, its too cute dozing on the beach.