Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus, Myer's Point Park, Lansing, Tompkins Co., New York, 16 September 2001.
These pictures were taken by my son Jay and me with an Olympus D-450 digital camera through my Swarovski HD-80 spotting scope.
All photos © Kevin J. McGowan
Jay and I just happened to stop and check Myer's Point on our way back home from the annual meeting of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs. We were unaware that the Birding Club at Cornell had already found this bird the previous day. We were looking for Sanderlings, and I thought I had one, based on back color. Then I realized that it was a plover! I immediately turned and ran back to the car to get the scope and Jay instantly instantly whipped his digital camera from its "holster" and began taking pictures through his binoculars.
I once saw a very pale Semipalmated Plover in New Jersey that looked extremely like a Piping Plover. Despite the pale sand-colored back, it was recognizable as Semipal by its extensive black mask. Ever since that time I've been cautious about jumping to the conclusion that a pale, round-headed little plover is always a Piping. We spent a little while with this bird making sure of the species ID, and were confident that indeed it was a Piping based on the incomplete breast band, facial pattern, and the white uppertail that contrasted with the back color when the bird flew. The toes were only very slightly palmated as well.
I first thought it was a juvenile bird because of the ringed effect of many of the feathers, but I have since decided that it is probably an adult bird in full basic (non-breeding) plumage. I believe that a juvenile would have much more of a ringed look from larger buffy tips on the back feathers, especially on the upper back.
Notice how different the white collar on the back of the neck can look depending on the posture of the bird.
At one point we thought the bird was banded with a dark green band on the right foot, as can be seen in this picture.
Apparently, though, it was just a piece of vegetation stuck to the leg, which could be determined when it turned slightly.
For comparison, here is a juvenile Semipalmated Plover seen at Myer's Point on 5 September 2000.
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