Late summer and fall are the peak season for viewing shorebirds in many parts of North America. Many species that breed in North America journey from their arctic nesting grounds to winter here in the United States and all the way into South America, and then return to the Arctic the following spring. Some travel more than 15,000 miles in this annual circuit. Remember the whimbrel project?
A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to photograph a few of these birds along the coast of North Carolina. Here are just a few I encountered.
...like the the Semipalmated Plover. They breed along the sandy beaches of the tundra and winter along coastal California and the Carolinas south.
The word in their name "semipalmate" means having the front three toes partly webbed.
Look closely at this next photo and you can see the webbing between it's toes. (click the photo to enlarge)
Up next is the Ruddy Turnstone.
Ruddy Turnstones breed on coastal tundra in northwest Alaska and other islands of the Arctic. They winter in various areas along the US coast (east and west).
Another winter visitor is the Willet. Willets breed from central Canada to Northern California and winter further south along our coastlines.
Here they are feeding on some type of sand crab. A favorite food for may shorebirds.
Sanderlings are also popular here this time of year.
Sanderlings are long-distance migrants from the arctic. They often form in large flocks along mudflats and beaches. They are fun to watch as they are constantly bickering with each other.
If given the chance, get out and see what shore birds may be wintering in your area.