Posted by: atowhee | October 4, 2021

HOW TO BE A TURNSTONE–A DAY AT BODEGA BAY

We spent the day birding the perimeter of Bodega Bay here in Sonoma County. We saw eleven species of shorebird, all but one are migrants here for the winter (and zero Killdeer!). There were many fine moments and images for Albert Ryckman. Most significant was perhaps was the intensive course we were given on how to be a turnstone.

Our initial bird vision of the morning was a large flock of Marbled Godwits feeding in shallow water at Doran Park. Far in the background were sandpipers and Dunlin, but the godwits were close and nonchalant as we edged out to the mudflats to get nearer. About half-way north on the Doran sandspit we later saw those godwits and dozens more gathered along the bayshore as the tide hit highwater around 10:20.
This time there were about a dozen Black Turnstones mixed in, plus about 20 Willets and two Whimbrel. Again, we got pretty close without the birds giving us warning or attention. This was a sandy spot and much seaweed lay just above the water line. The turnstones and larger brids were hunting through the weed to grab some snacks. It was crustacean elation. As we watched a few dozen Least Sandpipers came and went at this location. In mid-afternoon we were along Eastshore Road opposite Doran Park. There we found a large flock of turnstones on the stone rip-rap adjacent to tghe public boat ramp. There our lesson was completed.
Turnstones turn more than mere stones. Today they were flipping seaweed, something the other species did not do.

Turnstones want to be in a flock. The large flockkat the boat ramp numbered at least 70 birds, with much to-ing and fro-ing. Occasionally a larger shorebird (esp. Willet) would wander off alone. Not so B.T. Stone. They moved easily through flocks, and beneath the taller godwits and willets. They can nimbly climb up slimy seaweed coated rocks. They enjoy a friendly spat, often punctuated by a long sequence of shrill, speedy squawk notes. They enjoyed splash-riven bathing in the bay. Their waterproof feathers never indicating any water penetration. Their bold black and white wing pattern made them even more obvious in flight than the willets. They neither fear nor care much about our species. Several of them occupied one end of the boat ramp while two people tied up and worked on a boat on the same ramp. There was some squabbling and much running and climbing about, some alarm flights that mostly ended with the flock back where it started, about twenty feet from where we sat in awe.

Yes, those brown birds with the pale eyebrow are Short-billed Dowitchers. Click any image to enlarge.
Below is shot of the Doran Park mid-morning godwit flock. Note the third bird from the left has a down-curved beak–it’s one of the Whimbrels.

Other noted sightings: Black and Say’s Phoebe hunting near one another in scrub atop Boega Head.
Brown and White Pelicans loafing together mid-day.
Furious Snowy Egret who raised its crest.
Loons: one Pacific and one R-T, both off the Doran Sandspit, ocean side.
Two Surf Scoter females inside the bay.
Heavy coastal fog prevented any seawatch.


Doran Regional Park – entrance pond to jetty, Sonoma, California, US
Oct 4, 2021 9:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Checklist Comments:     high tide at bay entrance–1015am
34 species

Mallard  2
Eared Grebe  X
Whimbrel  2
Marbled Godwit  70
Black Turnstone  15
Dunlin  X
Least Sandpiper  X
Western Sandpiper  X
Short-billed Dowitcher  X
Greater Yellowlegs  X
Willet  30
Heermann’s Gull  X
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
Herring Gull  X
Red-throated Loon  1
Pacific Loon  1
Brandt’s Cormorant  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
American White Pelican  X
Brown Pelican  X
Great Blue Heron  X
Great Egret  X
Snowy Egret  X
Turkey Vulture  X
Osprey  1
Black Phoebe  1
Common Raven  X
Bushtit  10
European Starling  X
White-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Bodega Bay–north shore (includes rail ponds), Sonoma, California, US
Oct 4, 2021
Checklist Comments:     heavy fog prevented seawatch
31 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  2
Pied-billed Grebe  7
Black Oystercatcher  1
Marbled Godwit  X
Black Turnstone  70
Surfbird  2
Least Sandpiper  X
Western Sandpiper  X
Short-billed Dowitcher  4
Greater Yellowlegs  X
Willet  X
Heermann’s Gull  X
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
American White Pelican  X
Brown Pelican  X
Great Blue Heron  X
Great Egret  X
Snowy Egret  2
Turkey Vulture  X
Black Phoebe  1
Say’s Phoebe  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  2
Common Raven  X
Western Bluebird  3
White-crowned Sparrow  X
Song Sparrow  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X


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