A Dapper Congregation of Killdeer

By josh • Nature, Wildlife • 8 Aug 2012

It seems that shorebird migration has begun in earnest in the Champlain Valley, with stilt sandpipers, Baird’s sandpipers, white-rumped sandpipers, and lesser yellowlegs showing up in the last week or so.  The last time I was able to get out to look at mudflats (of which there are plenty along Lake Champlain this year!) it was a bit early yet, but I did find a very large group of killdeer.

Killdeer

Killdeer, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1600s, ISO 200

It’s easy to overlook this plover because they’re quite common and in Vermont we tend to encounter them in farm fields.  I’d never noticed the orange tinge to the scapulars before- when you have such obvious fieldmarks as the red eye ring, double breast band, strong black bill, distinctive call, and orange rump, some of the more subtle marks are ignored.

Killdeer

Killdeer, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 200

I strongly suspect that these birds are from an early brood this year.  There have been several adults at this location all spring and summer, and there was at least one scrape on the east side of the mouth of the LaPlatte River.  Perhaps the orange tinge is most obvious when the feathers are fresh since it’s mostly along the outer edge.

Killdeer

Killdeer, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 200

I’m hoping to get out for more shorebirding this week- there are lifers about!

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