The Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival in Arcata and Eureka on the north coast of California was fabulous! I added several birds to my 2013 year list during my four day stay, including the Surfbird (Aphriza virgata).
The Surfbird outside of the breeding season can be found along almost the entire Pacific Coast of the Americas, from southeastern Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile. In breeding season, Surfbird is found in mountain ranges scattered throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory1. Truly a West Coast species.
I found these beautiful rocky shorebirds in breeding plumage foraging on the mollusks found on the rocks and concrete pillars on the Humboldt Bay North Jetty. Click on photos for full sized images.
It was a beautiful sunny day and they gave up excellent views.
They were hanging out with Black Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala), also in breeding plumage.
Because the Surfbird’s Pacific coastal migration and wintering habitats are along oil tanker routes, they are vulnerable to oil spills.
Luckily much of their alpine breeding habitat is secure on public lands dedicated to conservation like Denali National Park, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Andreafksy Wilderness in Alaska. This bit of security is probably what gave this bird the opportunity to preen amongst the mussels here on Humboldt Bay’s North Jetty.
References: 1Audubon Watch List,
Sounds like you had a wonderful birding experience. Looking at your photos it looks like this bird melds into its surroundings quite well.
A wonderful series Larry!
looks to have been a wonderful 4-day getaway Larry; thanks for sharing your photos here, I really enjoyed seeing these birds you encountered in this environment
I have never even heard of surf birds before. You are quite an educator Larry. They are so well camouflaged among the molluscs and I love your shots of them foraging among the kelp.
My first visit to your blog. I’ve always enjoyed birds, but never really got into birding till lately. I’m hooked!
Happy to read that you had four great days of birding! I hope to go to that festival some fine day. We get some Surfbirds in Costa Rica but not many.
Thanks for a great post. It was fun to see your photos of Surfbirds with Black Turnstones, as that is how I’ve seen them here on the Olympic Peninsula. Very amazing birds with such a huge north-south range!