Sunday, April 15, 2012

White-faced Ibis at Lake Byllesby

After a full day yesterday at the Bluebird Expo in Byron, Minnesota, we got home and read a report that Hudsonian godwits had been seen at Lake Byllesby yesterday. This would be a rare and brief stop-off on their long migration -- these large shorebirds winter in southern South America and breed in northern Canada and Alaska. When we went to the lake today, none were in evidence anymore (last night's strong south winds may well have given them a favorable tail wind out of the area), but experienced birders leaving the area as we were arriving reported seeing seven white-faced ibis (or ibises -- Merriam Webster says the plural can take either form). And sure enough, there they were in the shallows at the far west end of the lake, amid a good number of greater and lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpipers, ducks and more.

White-faced Ibis

This tall, dark, handsome wading bird gets the "white-faced" part of its name from the white outline around the face that is somewhat visible on the bird on the right in the photos above. It is rarely reported in eastern Minnesota. In the United States, it is found year-round along the Gulf Coast and in Southern California, particularly the Salton Sea, with summer breeding populations found mainly in the northwest and central U.S., usually no closer to us than eastern South Dakota and Kansas. With those population patterns, even in migration you wouldn't expect to see many of these birds as far north and east as we are (though I understand that Atlantic coast sightings have started to occur). You can see a map of eBird sightings of the White-faced Ibis reported since 2008 here.

White-faced Ibis and a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs

Below is a very short video of the birds taken through the spotting scope. The photos above were taken in the same manner, but it is easier to crop the black vignette out of those than to crop a video. The sun was shining on my LCD and I really couldn't see what I was getting, so I didn't let it run more than a few seconds, but you get the idea of their motion as they probe for goodies in the very shallow water and wet mud.