Friday, December 18, 2015

Long-billed Dowitcher at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge

It's a new bird today! Not a rare bird, just a first for this beginner. We were at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge to see what the migratory birds were up to. They seemed to be mainly feeding and roosting elsewhere, as we only heard some distant Sandhill Cranes, and watched just a thousand or two Snow Geese along the auto tour. We weren't disappointed, because we don't visit just for the geese. We always see a wide variety of species, and today was no exception. Our birds of the day were a couple of Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus).
These members of the sandpiper family have ridiculously long bills, which I suspect has something to do with the name they were given. They use their bills to probe for worms and bugs in the mud. The birds breed in the far northernmost lands of Alaska and Canada and migrate to Mexico and coastal areas of the southern and western United States for the winter.
The Merced National Wildlife Refuge is one of our favorite spots for bird spying. No matter the season, we've seen something of interest, though winter is especially interesting when the geese and cranes are around. We saw hundreds of geese at the viewing platform near the beginning of the auto tour.

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