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Friday, April 20, 2012

Brumous air

It takes a while to become familiar enough with a place to start to feel its rhythms.  California is so different from New England that I still don't feel completely comfortable predicting when different natural events might occur here.  However, earlier this month I started out on an exploration in the rocky intertidal zone and felt like it could be a "Wandering Tattler Day."  I had been out for a while and was focused on invertebrates, and all of a sudden there it was — a single bird perched on the outer rocks (see below).

(I only had a short lens at the time, but there's a better picture below.)

Wandering Tattlers (Tringa incana) often seem to appear out of nowhere.  They are generally solitary and are very quiet until you surprise them and then they take off, usually giving a series of very pretty clear notes — sometimes written as "lidididi".  (If you want to hear it, there's a sound clip here.)

I was taken by the vocalization description from the Birds of North America account:

Wandering Tattlers spend much of their lives in a rich acoustic environment, dominated by the roar of mountain streams and crashing waves. Just as tattlers avoid the rush of surge and surf with nimble footwork and agile flight, so too do their vocalizations dance at, or just above, the upper frequencies of the dominant ambient sounds. Whether bouncing off the walls of an alpine canyon, flashing across a coral reef, or drifting down between towering peaks, the cry of the tattler pierces the brumous air of its chosen haunts.

I wasn't familiar with the word brumous, so had to look it up.  It means foggy or wintry.  There's something in me that relates to this word.  Maybe because brumous conditions can be filled with mystery and intrigue.  [Or perhaps it's because we might see high temperatures tomorrow in the 90s (in Davis), which I'd rather not experience!]

The first photo (above) was taken on 8 April 2012 and it appears that the bird is still in non-breeding plumage with smooth gray underparts.  This second photo (below) was taken on 8 May 2010 and instead shows a bird with heavily barred underparts typical of breeding plumage.  

Note also the dark lores (between the bill and the eye), white supercilium (line above the eye), long wings, and relatively short yellowish legs.  Tattlers nest in Alaska, NW Canada, and the Russian Far East.  They winter along the coast from British Columbia to Peru.  Northward migration peaks in April–May.

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