Seeing seals was great, but my main reason for haunting Arcata's rocky shorelines on this evening was to study the shorebirds that specialize in "life on the rocks". Many birders affectionately refer to these birds as "rockpipers". My first stop was to the boat harbor near Trinidad, where I saw numerous Common Murres, and some Pigeon Guillemots feeding offshore. It didn't take long until I found my first "rockpiper" though, a large Black Oystercatcher sat on the dark rocks, it's bright orange bill giving it away!
Black Oystercatcher digiscoped w/ Leica APO Televid spotting scope & C-Lux 2 camera
After a short while, the Black Oystercatcher count had reached 6 individuals, and I'd gotten my fill of studying these birds' feeding habits. However, I found no other rockpipers here, so I decided to head for the Arcata rock jetties to search for more. Upon arriving, I spotted numerous Surfbirds almost instantly. There were over 47 individuals in this first flock.
I walked the length of the jetty and counted 107 Surfbirds along the way. As an east coast birder, I was highly appreciative for this great opportunity to study these birds. I noted their rough feet which undoubtedly aid in clinging to the slippery rocks. Mixing with these Surfbirds were the comical Black Turnstones, that bathed in puddles left from recent rains, preened, and fed on the algae covered rocks.
Black Turnstone fluffs after bathing, digiscoped Arcata, CA 4/20/08
There were just as many Black Turnstones here and the opportunities for study were fantastic. The sun was shining brightly for the first time since this front blew in, so I enjoyed the calm evening as I observed these birds. The Turnstones used their flat-tipped bills to flip algae in search of prey.
These three species all fed side by side in mixed flocks, which was great for direct size comparisons. The Surfbirds were large & stocky, the mid-sized Black Turnstones were smaller and sleeker, and the Rock Sandpipers were comparatively diminutive. After an hour or so with these I worked my way back hoping to see the last of the western "rockpiper" species.
Wandering Tattler digiscoped w/ Leica APO Televid spotting scope & C-Lux 2 camera
I found a Wandering Tattler feeding by itself low on the rocks along the channel to round out my list of Western rockpiper species. One of the many highlights I enjoy on my annual visits to Godwit Days.