Posted by: atowhee | October 6, 2021


This afternoon Albert Ryckman and I were at Bodega Bay as the tide receded, the sealevel dropped and broad expanses of level mudflats were exposed. It meant a revealed menu of goodies not available to mortal birds when the tide is in.

For one bird to live other creatures must die. Nature is inflexible on what is needed to carry on, to survive, to propagate the species, to fly or float or dive or run.

Several species worked the changing shoreline–SHOREbirds, gulls, egrets. The shorebirds included godwit, willet, sandpipers and a lone Black Oystercatcher far from the nearest rock out-cropping. On mudflats and rocky rip-rap further from open water there were the short-legged Least Sandpipers, and to our intense pleasure, a flock of 23 handsome little Semipalmated Plovers.

Could our beknighted species ever find a morsel by foot?

We watched the Black Oystercatcher wade through water a couple inches deep. He was clearly using his feet to feel for prey. What he caught and gobbled down: snails.

One Snowy Egret caught what looks like a sea slug. Often this bird will wade into shallow water–there the foot will be lightly patted or swirled to stir up something to eat.

Semipalmated Plovers moved rapidly. Peppy little predators. Over and under rocks, wading through seaweed still wet and curly. Together, but each one on its own mission for a meal. No squabbling, no wasted time. One came up with a slender marine worm.

Unlike old-time science Albert’s camera allows us to ascertain feeding facts without shooting a bird and cutting open its stomach. No necropsy required, just careful watching and a good cameraperson. We are grateful, and so are Bodega’s birds.

The pelicans dined as is their wont. The smaller brown ones diving, sometimes from just a couple feet off the surface. The large, bulky white ones trawled the surface, usually in a line. A small fish escaping one open beak might find it self scooped up in the next pouched beak, two feet to the left.



Some of my own low quality snapshots:

Tht little guy in a willow was our Hutton’s Vireo at Pt. Reyes this morning.

How dry it is, signs at Inverness:

Bodega Bay–north shore (includes rail ponds), Sonoma, California, US
Oct 6, 2021
Checklist Comments:     included Bodega Head
26 species

Pied-billed Grebe  5
Eared Grebe  2
Western Grebe  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Black Oystercatcher  2
Semipalmated Plover  23
Marbled Godwit  240
Least Sandpiper  60
Long-billed Dowitcher  1
Willet  X
Ring-billed Gull  X
Western Gull  X
Pelagic Cormorant  X
Double-crested Cormorant  X
American White Pelican  60
Brown Pelican  200
Great Blue Heron  X
Great Egret  X
Snowy Egret  3
Turkey Vulture  X
Osprey  1
American Crow  2
Common Raven  1
European Starling  X
White-crowned Sparrow  X


  1. I’m enjoying your commentary and your photos! Are you sure it’s a snail that the BLOY or BLOC or … just plain old Black Oystercatcher… has in its
    long bill? Looks like a mussel to me. But if it got that out of the mudflat, then
    it wouldn’t be a mussel. Curious.
    Yes, I too find it so sad that ornithology folks of yore killed the birds they
    were so fascinated observing. Like,,, how many Ivory Billed Woodpeckers
    got snuffed so their skins could be collected? Aaaaargh. But I digress.
    Keep up the good observations! (And the photos aren’t so bad.)
    Alex in Sonoma

    • Mudflats for sure…we were witnessiing, photo our evidence…snail it appears to be, whelk, something with round shell

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