Tishomingo NWR
November 30, 2003
    On Friday morning, Nov. 28 (the day after Thanksgiving), Phil and Sue Ann Floyd and I drove down to Tishomingo NWR in southcentral Oklahoma to look for ducks and geese.  And found 'em! and also ran into John Sterling who was apparently out looking for Dunlin for his yearlist.  As far as I know he didn't find any, at least not while he was with us, but he did show Phil and me the observation tower and a hiking trail to the island/peninsula where, he says, we can find some great birds during migration.  (This was our first-ever visit to Tishomingo.)

     At the boat landing west of the headquarters before John joined us, we found tons o' geese---all 4 flavors!---and thrilled to the sight and sound of them all taking off from the water at once as first one Bald Eagle, and then another, flew over the lake, apparently just "buzzing" the water for any stragglers.  We also found some peeps that we checked off as Least Sandpipers (we were looking into the sun and the dazzling light on the shallow water made it hard to see any distinguishing field marks), 4-5
Avocets (late migrants according to the Date Guide), half-a-dozen Greater Yellowlegs, lots of Northern Shovelers, and what we took to be our second American Golden-Plover in as many months.  Then Phil pointed out that THIS bird was in Oklahoma, whereas the other---and our lifebird---had been at the Hagerman NWR in Texas, so we were feelin' reeeeally pleased with ourselves about our second sighting of this recent lifebird..... until John Sterling took a look at the bird awhile later and said HE felt it was a Black-bellied Plover, NOT a Golden.

     "Why?" I asked.

     He looked at me for a minute, quiet and sorta puzzled, as if wondering how I could doubt his call on the species of the bird.

     "No, I mean, what about the bird says, 'Black-bellied' instead of 'Golden' to you??"

     He then pointed out that the whitish eyebrow above the eye wasn't very distinct and the feathers on the breast were rather pale overall.  And that the bill was bigger than that on a Golden-Plover.

     "You're right about the bill," I replied.  "I'd noticed that big bill and thought briefly about it (it had reminded me of the bill of a Gull-billed Tern when I first noticed it, I mean, relative to the size of the bird), but then discounted it on account of the fact that the bird's crown seemed pretty dark, much darker than it would be on a Black-bellied Plover this time of year."  Remember, too, that I'd only seen one
Golden-Plover in my life, so far, and even tho' it was a month ago, I'm still pretty excited about finding that bird that had been my nemesis for years before.

     John agreed with me about the crown on this bird being pretty dark but said in this case, the pale breast feathers and the larger bill were definitive as being those of a Black-bellied Plover, rather than a Golden.  And I had to agree with him.  (Black-bellied was not a lifer but it WAS a yearbird for both Phil and me, so we weren't too disappointed with John's call on that bird.)

     However---"saved by the bell," as it were, and in almost the very next minute---we found another Plover near the first one that WAS a
Golden-Plover:  smaller bill than the first bird, dark crown, very white eyebrow, with distinctly darker feathers on the breast and flanks.  So we found BOTH Plovers on the same mudflat, and both of them about TWO weeks late as migrants go.  And thanks to John's 2 cents, we're SURE about what we saw.  So we're both still pretty pleased with ourselves. ~:-)

     Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving birdwatching as much as we did, especially the bird in the oven.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm, good!!
(c) copyrighted by Cyndie Browning 2003
Black-bellied Plover in fall plumage
by Steve Metz