Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beachside Buffet

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and he be holding her as she digs down to lay her eggs.
That was really bad wasn't it?
Horseshoe crabs aren't crabs at all. They get their own class and their big claim to fame is their satisfaction with their design over a very long period of time. This whole evolving thing seems like a lot of trouble, so they've taken the "wait and see" position.
It seems to work for them.
When the horseshoe crabs crawl ashore to lay their eggs, they are actually placing a feast of caviar in the sands and there's no shortage of diners. The photo above is just part of a huge flock of shorebirds working the high tide line along North Key.
I think we are seeing dowitchers, sanderlings, a willet, and some plovery fellows. You birders feel free to chime in with your expert ID's.
You know you want to ...


"He was a giant among birds"


The shore wrack consists of broken blades of seagrass and it's usually full of tiny amphipods about the size of a sesame seed. If you lift a clump, the little crustaceans go flipping hither and yon.
The sanderlings were working hard finding the little beach hoppers by poking through the clumps. I think they were having great success, because they tolerated my presence and clearly did not want to give up their spot.


Two's company, three's a ...
flock.
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16 comments:

robin andrea said...

I find shorebirds really hard to identify. When I open Sibley's and look at their shorebird page, the birds mostly all look alike, with a bit of difference in the angle of the beaks or something. Yikes.

When I was young, I was a city girl, but my parents took us to the beach every summer. I once found a horseshoe crab on the beach in New Jersey. It was one of first things that sparked my interest in the natural world.

Thunder Dave said...

Nice series of photos, and commentary!

I'm working from home today, which has given me an opportunity to take breaks and check out the blogs. I'm going to try to get a post out myself, maybe on my next break, most likely hop related, but with some other info.

SophieMae said...

Your big plover, upper left, is most likely a black-bellied. The little ones that look like killdeer cousins are semipalmated. I love watching the sanderlings run in and out at the edge like little wind-up toys.

Doug Taron said...

Growing up on the coast of New England, I loved shorebirds. Here in the Midwest we do still see some, but far fewer. I can count on kildeer on my site, and the occasional solitary sandpiper. I haave to venture far afield and to some specific places if I want to see an upland sandpiper.

scott said...

I've no experience with shore birds, but before I scroll up to see what the real birders said I'll guess sanderlings.

The horseshoe crab looks too closely related to the cockroach for my taste. I am just a little squeemish that way.

pablo said...

Clearly I should have been a teacher in Florida. Three months of beach bumming!

Floridacracker said...

Robin,
I agree on shorebirds.
I think a horseshoe crab is just the animal to peak a child's interest in the natural world.

ThunderDave,
I suppose by now the hops have taken over the house exterior.

Sophie,
Thanks! I thought semi-p for the little and didn't even notice the larger upper left.

Doug,
I don't know how you could grow up on the coast and live in the midwest. I can't fathom it.

Scott,
You should see the flip side of that critter :)

Pablo,
BUM is the key word there. I don't stay at many B&B's if you get my drift :) Summer is a forced furlough without pay ... at least not the monetary kind.
Still, it beats life in a cubicle ... at least for me.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

As I say, if you can't identify the bird exactly, you call them "flitting birds." My bird book says I now have 700 of those.

Floridacracker said...

Hoss,
"Flitting".
How fitting.

vicki said...

Piping plovers! I think that's a middle-aged horseshoe crab. She has barnacles.

vicki said...

(The ones with the dark neck bands up close to the dune grass.)

Deb said...

They all look like shorebirds to me. :)

Shorebirds, the little-explored frontier of my birding experience...

Mechelle said...

I must go find some of thoes horseshoe crabs to see for myself - they are really cute. I also want some boiled peanuts after reading your post from yesterday - mmmmmmmm!

Floridacracker said...

Vicki,
Lucky her, she can molt and lose them :)

Deb,
That's mostly where I am too.

Mechelle,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
Anyone who can see the "cute" in a horseshoe crab is welcome here.

Rurality said...

Identifying shorebirds takes practice, practice, practice! And then it's still hard. I do so love saying "semipalmated" though. :)

Floridacracker said...

Rurality,
And are there completely palmated ploveres or are they all incomplete?