Bird ID Questions

(To the members of the Birders list who came here in response to my request for help — thanks! I’ve gotten several confirmations offlist that the shorebird is in fact a Dunlin, and the heron is a Great Blue.)

Today I went to Dutton Fields (Auburn Hills, Oakland County), prompted by Ed Lewandowski’s good report from there a few days ago. I did indeed find many of the birds he reported at the pond, and got some good practice with my spotting scope. But I saw two birds that seem unlikely for right here, right now.

First, is this a Dunlin standing amongst all those Canada Geese? Sure looks like it to me with that black belly. It was running around with a Spotted Sandpiper. (Sorry the photo isn’t sharp — use “control +”  to enlarge it even more if that’s of any help.)

See the little guy between the geese? Dunlin?

The last Dunlin reported in our area on eBird this year was Kevin R’s report at Stony Creek a few weeks ago.

The second one I’d like opinions on is also unlikely. At first glance I thought I was looking at a Great Blue Heron standing beside a Great Egret. But then I noticed the white belly and rump. And the bill looks darker than it should be on a GBHE (although that could just be the light or pond scum, I know). Also, it appears to be about the same size as the egret. My Peterson field guide gives heights of these heron species as follows:
Tricolored Heron:26″
Great Egret:38-39″
Great Blue Heron:45-47″
So if it was a GBHE, I’d expect it to look larger beside the egret….so what do you all think? Is it too much to hope that I’ve found TWO unexpected species in one day?

Could it be a Tricolored Heron?

Heron and Egret together, just to illustrate relative sizes

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2 Responses to Bird ID Questions

  1. S.T. says:

    Yup, the first one is a Dunlin. It is getting late for them, but shorebirds can be very late. Cool sighting!
    The second bird looks like a normal Great Blue Heron to me. Sizing is so hard to judge in the field that six inches isn’t a big deal. As for the feathers, Great blues can have wonky, messed up plumage this time of year because of juveniles and tired, ragged adults. The neck is too long, the colors are too blurry and darkish, and the belly isn’t white enough for a Tricolored.

    • Kim says:

      S.T., thanks for taking the time to respond. The responses I’ve gotten by email agree with what you’ve said here. So at least I got a lifer Dunlin today, and learned a bit more about Great Blue Herons. Thanks a ton!

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