Mystery Shore Bird

florida shorebird

I went for my usual morning beach walk on Saturday (June 25, 2022), and spied from a distance what to me seemed to be an unusual shore bird at the edge of the Atlantic ocean.

It watched me coming out of the corner of its eye, and calmly walked up the seaweed-littered berm that lead to the beach proper.

Meanwhile, a joyriding helicopter suddenly popped out of nowhere and circled overhead — blithely ignoring that this is a protected nature preserve area.

I was able to get close enough to take a better picture of this mystery bird, even though I still have not mastered how to take zoon pictures of birds (with the Galaxy 8 that I was using) that show any kind of feather detail.

The bird — a type of heron, maybe? — finally had enough of me being that near, and flew away.

Here’s the first sequence of snaps that I took of it.

It returned moments later.  I saw why soon enough. It had located prey.

Entranced, I watched as it methodically extracted a Ghost Crab from its burrow, sauntered over to the swash zone, where gentle waves were lapping the beach face.

Finally this mysterious grey-bodied bird swallowed the helpless crab in a few gulps, it’s small head tilted back, and its long beak in the air.

Here’s the sequence.

I don’t recall ever having seen this type of shorebird before.

I walked further down the shore for about an hour, almost to the island beach cams, before taking a dip in a shallow trough by the shoreline to cool off.

I have on occasion seen small reef shark chase fish into these troughs, but have yet to see any sign of them this summer — indeed I have not even seen a single school of small fish, which used to be abundant in these waters, and not one dolphin in the distance in all the days I have come here for the last few weeks.

What I’ve consistently liked about this isolated stretch of sand and scrub is that it is fairly wild and deserted here.  Not many tourists, or even locals, have the stamina, strength or desire to walk for mile on an empty shoreline that is the last vestige of what Florida’s east coast used to look like.

Their loss; my gain.

On the walk back, I came across a willet looking for its breakfast.

Later, upon returning home, I tried to identify the mystery bird, but could not find an exact match.

Maybe a reader who happens to come across this post can help me out in that regard.*

*After some research on the All About Birds web site, I decided that this bird was most likely the commonly-seen

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Part of the problem with the hand-me-down Galaxy S8 camera I’m  currently using is its zoom feature that results in blurry pics.

You simply do not see any detail, which is a challenge, given that a shorebird is unlikely to let you get close enough to it to take a great picture using a smartphone. I am going to compare, however, the quality one gets with an iPhone 12, though this article does not seem to be encouraging, even with an iPhone Pro 13.

If I decide to get serious about this, I need to educate myself on taking great pics of wildlife, and a real camera — if I am ever to get better pics of my Florida shorebirds, especially close-up pics of my beloved osprey in full dive bomb flight.  But am I willing to spend the money on this bulky gear?

Also there might be better resolution if WP detects a retinal display. At least that is what WP claims.  I will test this out on my wife’s iPro.

Lastly, I may need a better site than WordPress for displaying my pics.  WP might silently be doing too much, er, “automatic” (WordPress’s parent company is called Automattic) compression under the hood to display the kind of feather detail I am after in these pics.

For example, here is how the pic of the heron flying away the second time appears on a trial site I just created on Smugmug.

Is it my imagination, or is the Smugmug version (even in full-screen mode) NOT noticeably sharper than WP?

leaving america



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