This warm season, including this spring at Quivira, I finally took some time to get to know the Swallows a little better, not only in visual description, but in song, behavior and flight. Other than their beauty, I find the Barn Swallows to be the most gracefully designed and beautiful fliers of their kind. With their long, forked tail and sleek and slender wings, I am sure they could beat any other swallow in a dogfight. It’s a simple pleasure to watch them swoop down, mere inches above a field to catch an insect on the wing, to then see them rise a few hundred feet while banking and rolling. Their varied and constant chatter ranks among my favorites as well.
Pete Dunne most appropriately describes the Cliff Swallow as a “…husky crop-tailed Barn Swallow wearing a miner’s lamp.” Another gorgeous swallow, this species is very communal and will often nest in the hundreds or thousands together, making gourd-shaped nests out of mud. The image below shows a few birds collecting mud on the banks of a stream that runs through Quivira.
Tonight I am sharing a few miscellaneous shorebirds. First up to bat is a shorebird that isn’t much of a shorebird at all – the Upland Sandpiper. So named due to its preference for higher and drier habitat, the Upland Sandpiper can be found in fields and meadows. Look for it on a typically elevated perch and find it by its haunting song.
With a ratio of what must have been close to 1000:1, the Wilson’s Phalarope greatly outnumbers any other Phalarope. However, Steve and I were still able to find and ID a couple of Red-necked Phalarope in winter plumage, as pictured above.
A true wetland favorite, the Black-necked Stilt is as pleasing to watch for its behavior as it is a piece of natural art.
As stout and cute as a Bulldog puppy, Willets are always a site for sore eyes.
On our last evening and during our very few hours of decent, golden hour light Steve and watched a number of Willets and Avocets feeding in the shallows near the road.
With unique coloration and behavior, the Ruddy Turnstone is a shorebird that does not take a second guess to identify. The photograph above captures this conspicuous behavior for which these birds have earned their name. They do turn anything that they can – looking for any type of small invertebrate that may be hiding underneath. Anything includes dead fish or other animals, shells or trash washed up on a beach.
These guys typically migrate along the coasts and finding them in the interior is not that common. Although we missed out on finding any Buff-breasted Sandpipers during this visit, we were glad to have the opportunity to watch these guys in action.
This Great Egret is in full breeding plumage and has acquired the green mask that are indicative of adult birds. This one has also sustained an injury to its bill, perhaps from an aggressive encounter with another male?
What is more striking than a Snowy Egret?
Finally, I realized I haven’t included too much in terms of habitat shots of Quivira. Here is a pano of one of the more productive sections of the reserve. It’s a pity to think of how much of this habitat has been lost on this continent. How many care or even know?
Considered conspecifics for decades, both the Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers breed in the high arctic. Differences in plumage, migratory routes and breeding isolation, followed by allozyme and mtDNA evidence suggested separate species status. The Long-billed, pictured in this post was the only Dowitcher species Steve and I were find at Quivira. This is not altogether surprising due to the Long-billed’s preference for freshwater during migration and the Shirt-billed’s tendency to stick to marine environments.
The long, thick legs and bill give indication as to the depth of water in which these birds feed and they probe for prey using a rapid up and down motion that is quite reminiscent of the action of a sewing machine.
Most of the waterfowl had long since migrated north by the time Steve and I visited Quivira in May, but we were able to find a few. We encountered a few Eared Grebe and with the winds as high as they were, the waves were impressive in such shallow bodies of water.
Blue-winged Teal were the most abundant of the waterfowl.
Finally, we watched this gorgeous pair of Canada Geese in golden hour light. They seemed more appropriate here than in any other setting I had ever seen them before.
The sparrows were not to be outdone by other groups of birds. Steve and I were fortunate to find a number of interesting sparrows. Unfortunately most were difficult and uncooperative, at least when light was good. The Lark Sparrows, although gorgeous, were giving us a little confusion with their unfamiliar song.
While moving through the woodlots of Quivira, we found a couple of sneaky, tricksy Lincoln’s Sparrows.
My first time hearing the song of Clay-colored Sparrow. Their insect-like trills were somehow quite appealing and I looked forward to hearing them in the mornings.
The Harris’s Sparrow is another classic western sparrow found at Quivira.
Finally, the Savannah Sparrow, which can be found in different forms across the continent.