Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  Beautiful Avocets!

Published: August 11, 2020
Tags: Rarities, american avocet, blue-winged teal

On Day 4 of our family Staycation, I skipped out of the house early, leaving kids and grandkids to sleep-in before we left for a few days to go to the town of Ellicottville.  I walked the beach at Woodlawn and enjoyed being out by the water in the cool of the morning.  I didn't find anything unusual, except a flyby of three Blue-winged Teal, which are always a treat to see.

I was ready to head back home, my thoughts turning to our little trip:  what food items did I need to pack, don't forget to pick up ice for the cooler, throw together a few days worth of clothes, remember the playing cards, what treats should I pack for the kids - all that was running through my head... when - out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of some white-ish birds approaching with rapid wingbeats as they flew along the shoreline - and they were coming right towards me!  My first thought was they were probably more ducks but no, when I raised my camera I saw two, beautiful American Avocets in the viewfinder!

These birds both appeared to be males by the gentle upward curve of their bills; females have a very deep upward turn.  These two black and white shorebirds were in breeding (alternate) plumage, their heads and necks still retaining a gorgeous cinnamon color.  In a few weeks, that flashy cinnamon will change to a dull grayish-white.

Luckily, the pair set down on the beach about a hundred feet back where I had just come from.  I turned back and was able to get some more photos of them slowly walking along the shore.  I kept my distance but a woman looking for beach "treasures" walked right at them, flushing them from the beach.  I don’t even think she saw them!  Fortunately, they didn't fly far and soon returned and settled back down in the main beach area.  I told some birding folks about these rarities and then headed out.  Unfortunately, I later learned that the birds didn't stick around.  I was hoping the migrants wanted a rest and would spend a couple of hours or more gathering strength before carrying on with their journey.

American Avocets are quite rare for Western New York, by the way - with only an appearance or two during fall migration.  Normally, you'd find these beauties out west during breeding season or, in winter, along the southern coastlines of the US.  So this was a very lucky encounter for me and I sure am grateful for it!

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I watched as these beautiful avocets flew right towards me then right by me. What a wonderful sight!

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They landed just a little way back down the beach. Look how petite and slender they look next to that Herring Gull.

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They stood around and slowly walked along the shore

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Such handsome birds! Don't you love their tall, blue-gray legs?

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You can see the gentle upward curve of their long, thin bills that lets us know they are both males.

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Three Blue-winged Teal were a nice flyby

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