Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Greater (or Lesser?) Yellowlegs at Lake Byllesby

This is not a bird whose name's origin you have to guess at. Those are extremely yellow legs. 

I'm not positive whether this is a greater or a lesser yellowlegs. Does the bill look to you as if it is longer than the width of the head, and slightly upturned? It does to me, which would make it a greater yellowlegs. But the differences are subtle and the distinction can be difficult to make.

I was at Lake Byllesby with binoculars and spotting scope again last evening, hoping I might catch one of the shorebird rarities that have been popping up in migration. I had planned to be elsewhere, but I'd been indoors all day, and when it came down to it, I needed fresh air and quiet water and solitude. 

I saw at least 80 pelicans on their favorite sandbar far out into the lake; I saw perhaps 40 or 50 each of green-winged teal and blue-winged teal, and some sprinklings of northern shovelers, coots and mallards. I saw several groups of shorebirds -- I think some lesser and some greater yellowlegs (I think I heard both calls), plus a small group of pectoral sandpipers. I saw two bald eagles overhead and the resident great horned owl on her nest. 

No rarities this time, but spending the last hour of light on the edge of the lake -- the cool air echoing and rippling with the piercing calls of yellowlegs, the honking of geese and even the peculiar bark of a pelican -- was pleasure enough.

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