BIRDS OF THE WIND – ABC welcomed Dennis Paulson, one of the world’s experts on the fascinating and confusing shorebirds, who gave us a great overview as well as little known factoids in his illustrated presentation. Thanks to the University of Puget Sound for hosting this event and to Peter Wimberger, the director of the Slater Museum at UPS. Dennis is the past director of the museum.
We went with Dennis in photos to Cambridge Bay where he spent a season literally on the ground with nesting shorebirds, many of which went through Washington on their way north to nest. We looked at the nests, the eggs, the food, the predators, the camouflage of nest and bird, as well as the incubating parents, often the father, in a dozen different species in the up-close-and-personal photographs he took. This area at that time was blessed with a dearth of Arctic Foxes, so most eggs hatched, although of course there were a number of predators on the precocial chicks who did their own foraging as soon as they hatched, returning to their parent only for warmth and protection for a short time.
Dennis gave a number of time-lines on our Washington coastal birds, showing when the adults and then the young birds come through here, dramatically illustrating the long migration season in the fall as opposed to the short season in the spring. Maps were shown illustrating migratory routes of adults versus immatures, highlighting how different they can be. Dennis said it takes a year for the programming to kick in. No one knows how THAT works, but since they leave after their parents, it’s obviously not taught.
Many more factoids amazed some of us. Vera Cragin said on the way home that she had never seen or heard of the fact that shorebirds regurgitate pellets. Many of us were amazed at the photo of the Dowitcher, I think, with its upper mandible bent upwards when needed by the bird. Most amazing was Dennis’ uncanny vocal imitations of several really weird “songs” of shorebirds, rarely heard on these wintering grounds.
The group had many questions, many centering around changes in population, human-caused habitat loss and even humans’ contribution to the currently growing El Nino. However, Dennis says there is no evidence that these birds have changed their timetables in response to any of this, being extremely hard-wired in that regard.
Click on photo to enlarge.
Part of the appreciative crowd, some wearing UPS Slater Museum t-shirts! Center: Kay Pullen, MC for the ABC Club; Dennis Paulson; Ken Brown, founder of ABC; and Peter Wimberger, host and director of the Slater Museum at UPS. Bottom: Dennis with groupies, some of the Willettes wearing shorebird shorts: Carol Smith, Diane Y-Q, and Laurel Parshall.