Friday, March 20, 2009

A Garble of Marbled Godwits

While we were at the Woodley Island marina near Eureka, CA, which I wrote about in my last post, we were awed to see a good-sized flock of Marbled Godwits. Little did we know that in the next couple of days it would become so commonplace to see these handsome shorebirds that we went from exclaiming over them to essentially saying, "Oh look, another 400 Marbled Godwits." Nearby Arcata, CA, home to the renowned Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, celebrates them with an annual three-day festival called Godwit Days, which is held at the peak of spring migration for many species and offers small group field trips, lectures, workshops, boating excursions, and other activities. We're thinking we'll have to go, some year.

The long, slightly upturned bills of these birds are notable for being dark at the tip and pink for the rest of their length. They breed on the northern plains, including the Dakotas and even far western Minnesota, but they winter along the east and west coasts as far south as the tip of Mexico. My resident birding expert has seen them in Minnesota, but only in ones and twos, never in the flocks we saw in California, which ranged from several dozen to literally several hundred. The photo sequence below captures the first flock we saw as they transferred from one gathering spot to another right in front of us.

Look closely (click on the photos for more detail) and you'll see the group of birds that had come to rest on the grass at the water's edge.

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