Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Greatest and Least (Yellowlegs and Sandpipers) along the Tuolumne

It sounds all wrong, but water treatment plants are good places for bird watching. The treatment plant at Waterford is hard to miss because it is on the Tuolumne River, and right in the middle of the Tuolumne Parkway Trail. The trail climbs to the top of the bluff to circumvent it. The thing is, the purpose of treating the water is to clean it, and the open water attracts birds. Local birders conduct trips to the treatment plants for Modesto and Ceres because of the dozens of species to be found there. It's simply not as bad as it sounds!
The Waterford treatment plant is smaller, and thus I don't see as many birds there (they have other choices in the area, like the Tuolumne River itself, and a number of dredging ponds), but there are some. For the last few weeks there has been a small group of Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca). They are very similar to Lesser Yellowlegs, especially to my untrained eye, but the bills of the Greater are longer than the skull, and that seems to be the case here (as always, I am open to correction!).
There were three or four smaller birds flocking with the Yellowlegs, and I first thought they were juveniles, but I think they are actually Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutill). I am far less confident about the species choice though, as I've come to understand that the sandpipers can be very hard to tell apart, especially in fuzzy pictures.

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