[Tweeters] Montlake Fill dowitchers

Connie Sidles constancesidles at gmail.com
Mon Jul 20 13:08:25 PDT 2009

Hey tweets, thank goodness for photos. I agree that one of the
dowitchers the Doug photographed was probably a Long-billed, and I
should have been more ambiguous in my identification of it. The second
bird was perhaps a Long-billed as well, although I don't think so. The
third one, however, I still believe was a Short-billed. It is the one
facing the camera in Doug's shot showing two dowitchers. I am going by
the area on the breast between the foreneck and nape (going east and
west on the bird, so to speak) and between the lower neck and marginal
(or lesser) coverts where the wing starts to bend back (going north
and south on the bird). In my experience, if this area shows vertical
crescents or barring, the bird is a Long-billed. If this area shows
dots, it is a Short-billed. Oftentimes, it is difficult to determine
whether there are dots or crescents here. There is overlap between the
two species, probably due to wear and other factors. Also, sometimes
the birds scrinch up their necks and distort the markings. But if you
get a bird that shows this field mark distinctly, then I think it is
pretty safe to identify it. The bird on the right in Doug's photo
shows more of the crescents, but the bird on the left shows more of
the dots. In the field, I thought this was even more true, as the
birds paraded up and down in various postures and angles.

Another field mark that I look for is the V-shape made by the
supercilium when looking at a bird head-on. Short-billed Dowitchers
tend to have wider supercilia around the lores, so their V-shape is
wavy or more tapered. Long-billed Dowitchers have slightly narrower
supercilia in this region and look sharper and more pointy. (See Lee
and Birch's discussion of this feature and other dowitcher ID marks - http://www.surfbirds.com/ID%20Articles/dowitchers1005/dowitchers.html)

I do agree with Gene that identifying fall adult dowitchers is tricky,
and probably many mistakes are made. Juveniles are more distinct
because of the differences in tertial marks, so I am looking forward
to their migration later in the fall.

This morning, by the way, there were three dowitchers again on the
Main Pond, along with five Least Sandpipers. All three dowitchers
were, I believe, Long-billed. They did not appear to be the same birds
as yesterday, but two of them may have been. Without name tags, it's
hard to tell. - Connie

On Jul 20, 2009, at 9:17 AM, Eugene and Nancy Hunn wrote:

> Tweets,


> A cautionary note on the mid-summer adult dowitcher identification

> challenge. Connie reported what were presumably the same three

> dowitchers Doug Parrott photographed yesterday at the Montlake Fill.

> She identified them as Short-billed while Doug called them Long-

> billed. Fortunately, we have two excellent photos by Doug. In my

> opinion they are Long-billed Dowitchers. The one facing right shows

> a very long bill but beyond that shows heavy barring on the sides of

> the breast rather than spotting. The bird also seems heavy bodied.

> For what it’s worth, these features suggest Long-billed as opposed

> to Short-billed. Neither observer mentioned vocalizations, which

> ought to be definitive but which, in my experience, are frequently

> frustratingly ambiguous or absent.


> I have been struggling with these late summer, somewhat worn adult

> dowitchers in King County for some time now and believe they are

> often virtually impossible to identify with perfect certainty. I

> believe that dowitchers on fresh water in King County are most

> likely Long-billed, and since we have so little salt water or

> brackish habitat in King County Short-billed Dowitchers are most

> likely very rare in the county. I did see (and it was photographed

> by Steve Caldwell) a juvenile Short-billed two years ago at KVI

> beach on Vashon Island, one of the few decent salt-water habitats in

> the county, but suspect that many reports of Short-billed are more

> likely Long-billed.


> Gene Hunn

> 18476 47th Pl NE

> Lake Forest Park, WA

> enhunn323 at comcast.net


> From: tweeters-bounces at mailman2.u.washington.edu [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman2.u.washington.edu

> ] On Behalf Of Doug Parrott

> Sent: Sunday, July 19, 2009 10:31 PM

> To: tweeters

> Subject: [Tweeters] Forbes Road Everett, Stillwater, Montlake Fill

> 7/19/09


> Hi Tweets,

> It was a full day. I was up in Everett at Forbes Road at 7:00 am

> this morning. The highlights for this location were as follows:

> American Bittern flying over the dike

> Long & Short billed Dowitchers approx 30

> Spotted Sandpipers

> Western or Least Sandpipers too far to ID

> Bullocks Oriole

> Swainsons Thrush

> Eastern Kingbird fledglings (two from nest that I have been

> monitoring for the last two months.)


> At around 11:30 I was at Stillwater attempting to photograph the

> elusive American Redstart. I was successful in catching the female.

> I did see the male but it was too far away and too quick for me.

> I'll be back!! This is the 5th time I've been out there and finally

> got a photo. I have however seen them on 3 other occasions. There

> was also a very curious Bewicks Wren who got to within 10 ft of me,

> gave me the Bronx Cheer, then took off. I also captured a BC

> Chickadee trying to get a sun tan. That’s a first for me.


> Around 2:00 pm I was home, at the Montlake Fill. To my delight there

> were three Long-billed Dowitchers and Least Sandpipers at the north

> end of the Central Pond. In addition at the Southwest Pond the

> fledged Pied-billed Grebes were putting on a trying to eat show. The

> parents caught a pretty big fish and the kids were attempting to

> gobble it up. It was pretty humorous watching them. Photos at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdhouse_wa/sets/72157621718445234/





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