ID-ing Tan Shorebirds

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We’re gearing up for a long-awaited road trip to Washington state. I can’t wait to see the grandkids (and their parents) and, since we’re driving, of course I can’t pass up the opportunity to bird somewhere that isn’t home.

We had wanted to go this past spring, but we all know how that turned out. I don’t often get the opportunity to bird the coasts, so I was eager to finally see shorebirds heading north in their easy-to-ID breeding plumage. Now, all those birds have morphed into migrants heading the other way in drab white and tan. Still, we’ve included several days at wildlife refuges known for vast numbers of migrating sandpipers, and in the meantime, I’m brushing up on my sandpiper ID skills.

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Sorting Out Sandpipers

semipalmated-sandpipers_chicobasinranchco_20100501_lah_4500Late August is one of my favorite times to go birding. Maybe that’s because I really like shorebirds. I grew up near the beach, and studied marine biology in college—and I still get excited about anything to do with the ocean. The shorebirds here in Colorado are nowhere near a coastline, but they’ll have to do, at least for now.

The calendar may still say summer, but shorebirds consider this time of year to be fall. They’ve finished nesting, and it’s time to head someplace where winters are warmer. Many species breed in the arctic, and Colorado is right on their route south.

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