Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Go with Godwit

Chasing birds in addictive.  I have a funeral at the end of the week, half a continent away, and we are going to Asia birding on Sunday for a month, and I don't know why, but I went birding today.  Why? I guess because I have never seen a bar-tailed godwit in the lower 48 states.  Why else why?  because it is plover madness down at Ft DeSoto this time of year, and why else why?  My wife went with me, since what else do I (we) have to do?  I guess I do have things to do, I am literally writing 3 books right now, and well....I guess I went because I could.

What is a bar-tailed Godwit, a bird I see in and around Nome, doing in western Florida?  On their way to migration points....no.

Those Nome birds winter in New Zealand.
Today's bar-tailed godwit seemed to have fleas, was doing some serious preening and scratching

The Godwits we see in Florida this time of year are Marbled Godwits, which are bigger and are the ones from my back yard in South Dakota.  They head south to the coast, really any coast, Baja, Texas, South Carolina, Here.
Marbled godwit Ft DeSoto

But for a Bar-tailed godwit down here is a good bird, not a super rare thing, they see one or two it seems every year but I just have not chased one.  Today, chase I did.  

It was easy to find, very near where I always bird and where we typically park the car, and unload the bikes.  Today, I drove my bike up to the lagoon, shot photos and....GOT YELLED AT FOR DRIVING MY BIKE ON THE BEACH.  Okay, rules at DeSoto.  No...dogs, no covered license plates, BBQs, vendors, picnic tables, nudity, and apparently bikes on the beach, only two of which had signs to that matter...I'd say I should read the signs but I did not see any signs.

Well, I went plover watching, plover madness was evident.....five plover species and none were even killdeers.  All were easily seen.  It is always a good tutorial down there and almost always I see too many Piping Plovers for eBird.  I get emails, snide remarks, and questions, too many questions.  All of which I ignore, Ft DeSoto does not always bring out the best in me.  Rules....yea....

Winter plovers are not always easy....So let the review begin....Olaf's bad tutorial for plover madness month.

Black bellied plovers, big, like willet big, thick bill, no black belly this time of year, more of a beach  shore bird, but this one was at the lagoon 

Piping plover, small, very light plover, almost color of sand, black bill, orange-yellowish legs, band on front of neck does NOT meet.

Semipalmated plover, band meets on neck, a little orange usually on base of bill, but the piping bill and semipalms bill look almost identical from shape and size, yellowish legs, typically darker than pipings, but not always 

Snowy plover.  This bird seems to always be more upright in posture.  Bill longer and thinner than a piping and semipalm, legs are gray to dark, no band in front, like piping.  White forehead, which looks different to me from piping but basically the same, 
Where other plovers will chase the waves, it seems I see snowy's up higher on the beach and not infrequently in a little bowl they have made or found, like this one today.  Almost missed this one.

Wilson's plover has a T. Rex look about them, they just look angry and mean, while pipings and semipalms look nervous..  They have a huge bill, dark legs, usually a complete band in front, darker like semipalms

I saw 150 plovers today.  They guess there are 12-13000 piping plovers in the world, 30-35K snowy plovers, and maybe just 10,000 Wilson's plovers.  I've seen over 100 of both Wilson's and Piping plovers on this stretch of beach or in two small tidal ponds.  It is the place to go, and whether eBird likes my counts or not, I do not care.....I'm just a bad birder down here.

There are over a million bar-tailed godwits on this planet and 1/10 of that number of marbled godwits for comparison, and although these 3 plovers are much more scarce as they say....location location location....but if you bird and come to Florida, stop by here and see the little guys, and may, just maybe, a bar-tailed godwit or something else strange may be around.  Ft DeSoto is a nice beach to just soak up the sun and some cool birds.



  1. Great that you highlight this bird just as another Bar Tailed Godwit makes the news for an 11 day, 8400 mile non stop flight from Alaska to Tasmania.

    1. sort of the problem with seeing great things constantly, the wow factor gets commonplace.......all the big migrators do crazy things. First far eastern curlew coming off the ocean in Attu, had been in air for like 5000 miles when saw it



This is not a bird trip organized for sissies.  Seeing the King aside, this almost seems like work.  The typical day is up at 0530, load up ...