It’s a blustery day. Mother Nature is winding up to produce gale force winds at the beach. The clouds have rolled in and grey is the color of the day. Nevertheless, two hardy souls decided to drive and walk the beach to see what they could see. Bird behavior is on our minds. Gulls and shorebirds were sharing the beach. Hundreds of sanderlings lined up in single file along the waterline where they were feasting on invertebrates for lunch. The line seemed to stretch forever.
Flocks of gulls were facing into the strong winds as they roosted on the wet, brown sand. Gulls do this sort of thing to prevent their back feathers from being raised by the wind. Scientists also believe that the main reason is that take-offs and landings are easier when birds are facing into the wind. They, like airplanes, “use the wind speed as a reduction in the ground speed they must achieve before enough airspeed is passing over their wings,” according to www.quora.com.
One western gull seemed to be irritated by the sanderling’s behavior of running with the waves and gobbling up the goodies left behind when the waves rolled back out to sea. It gathered up steam and chased and chased a flock of 10 or so sanderlings until they flew a long way down the beach to join another group of sanderlings. I think it was satisfied with itself because once the sanderlings had been dispatched it stood its ground and began to preen.
There were other species of gulls roosting on the beach. A few glaucous winged gulls standing on one leg (to conserve energy) were among relatively large numbers of California gulls and Heermann’s gulls. Hybrids and more Western gulls were included in the various flocks. Black-bellied plover were on their best behavior today. Instead of flying off as if in a big hurry to get away they stayed put and posed for picture taking. Typically, plovers run and stop, run and stop, run and stop. These plovers were no different. They stayed put for quite a few minutes before exhibiting their run and stop behavior. They did not seem to be disturbed by the rapid fire clicking of my camera.
Offshore, brown pelicans glided and dipped between the ocean waves, finally settling where there must have been a ball of small bait fish. The proof was in the pudding so to speak, as the pelicans were joined by their friends, the double-crested cormorants and gulls of various species as well as a few seals who stopped by to observe. Then they all dispersed as quickly as they had gathered.
The windiness and grayness of the day facilitated both photography and birding. It was a good day. The action on the beach was so very interesting that we decided to make beach driving and walking on days like today a must. We will definitely do it again! The theater of it all is amazing!
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.