This morning I made my last scheduled visit to Silver Sands State Park for the year in my official capacity as a volunteer shorebird monitor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I'm sure I'll be back to the park again at some point (and without my semi-dorky official hat), but the end of these weekly visits makes me feel like summer may actually be coming to a close.
The birds certainly know that summer is ending, and I saw just gobs of shorebirds on their southward fall migration. Whole stretches of the shoreline were packed with Semipalmated Sandpipers (the mottled gray and white birds) and Semipalmated Plovers (the brown and white birds with fancy black bibs), blending expertly in with the rocks:
I counted over 300 sandpipers and 100 plovers in just one area -- hardly the largest gathering of shorebirds ever, but more than I've ever seen at this beach before.
Many of the sandpipers were sleeping, just completely zonked out. We'd had a heavy thunder storm earlier in the day, so I wonder that contributed to the birds' tiredness:
(I know these birds look dead, but I promise, they're just sleeping. Or at least, I think I saw most of them open their eyes while I was there....)
Hanging out with the group of semipalmated creatures (the internet tells me that this adjective refers to the webbing between these birds' toes... who knew!), there was also a sleek Least Tern -- I love the markings on this bird's beak:
And this totally weird-looking shorebird, a Ruddy Turnstone:
That's a nice angry mask you have, bird!
Away from the shore, an immature Cooper's Hawk surveyed the area from its perch on a small tree:
And when it took off, it flew past me, right at eye level -- what an awesome bird:
It was great to see so many creatures, and I definitely enjoyed the cooler breezes on the beach. It's hard for me to believe, but summer really does seem to be winding down!