Ruddy Turnstone

A community for wildlife

Westport Land Conservation Trust took a terrific trek on the last Thursday of October, heading to one of the great coastal habitats of the South Coast on a search for shorebirds, sea ducks, and other shoreline-loving wildlife. The species we encountered deserve some reflection, as we look ahead to future outings.

Shore, bird

Shorebirds are ideal wildlife for observation by nature enthusiasts of all skill levels. Positive ID relies less on plumage, song or other transient characteristics. Instead, identification by way of shape and relative size, as well as very distinct field markings, becomes the modus operandi. And habitat becomes as important as any of those.

On our first of three walks we are calling South Coast Strolls (Shorebirds and Their Habitats)–in partnership with the Westport River Watershed Alliance–we uncovered a variety of wonderful species at Gooseberry Neck. Making our way along the edge of the peninsula, we were treated to such wonderful birds as the Black-bellied Plover and the Ruddy Turnstone. Even in their nonbreeding plumage, these shorebirds have distinct field markings that single them out and make them unmistakable.

Another rare treat was the sighting of a Purple Sandpiper meandering along the rocks of the southern shore only some five or six feet from our party. Again, this bird was exhibiting its winter plumage–having arrived from northern breeding grounds–but even so, its plumage was vibrant and colorful. This bird’s arrival was so early, in fact, that it triggered the classification as “rare” on our eBird checklist. Luckily, one of our party captured photos of this hardy sandpiper, beautifully illustrating its unique color and shape to substantiate our observation.

Discovering Our Coast

Gooseberry Neck is a hotspot for wildlife at any time of year. Its rocky shores harbor many a sea duck (eiders and Harlequin Ducks congregated in respectable numbers) and a variety of gull and tern species. Meanwhile, the shrubby upland was the perfect habitat for us to observe Pine Siskin, wrens, and even some errant warbler species. In warmer months, seals regularly beach upon the rocks just offshore, or play and bob in the water off the coast.

As we continue to dive deeper into the coastal habitats of Westport, we look forward to taking a close look at the ecology that makes up those settings.

Our next two scheduled walks are in starkly diverse habitats, from the sandy shore below Richmond Pond (and the surrounding reeds) to the stunning dunes of Cherry and Webb. In collaboration with our great partners at WRWA, we cannot wait to uncover and learn more about these diverse settings, and to sharing those walks with our fellow adventurers.

Sign up for our next two walks:

Our thanks to Steve McGuiness for the terrific photos!