By Guest Blogger Lara Tseng
and lifestyle is drastically different from inland birds. These birds also migrate and change their colorations through the seasons.
The Shorebird and Advanced Shorebird ID workshops taught me how to ID shorebirds and remember them by not only field marks but facial expressions and shapes that are more intuitive to understand and remember. To me, these traits are generally much easier to use as means of bird identification in contrast to coloration, which is often what is seen on field guides. By covering the shorebirds by family, I could easily remember the general body shape which allows me to focus on field marks and finding the bird in my field guide.
The Advanced Shorebird ID workshop was exceptionally helpful in noticing and identifying rare species - with oftentimes very little difference from the common ones. I learned that carefully examining common birds can help me familiarize myself with common traits and be helpful when identifying rare ones - especially when I only get a few glances. Very similar birds helped me understand that there is a very fine line between species and subspecies and that sometimes, there just isn’t a clear distinction between the two.
I noticed my ability to ID our local shorebirds markedly increased as I took information from the workshop into the field. Dowitchers, yellowlegs, and sandpipers have always been extremely hard to distinguish. The way dowitchers and sandpipers were taught allowed me to ID them not by nondescript, minuscule differences but to look at the facial expression as well as where the bird was seen. These differences are often much easier to remember and can be recorded quickly, even with a few quick notes or sketches.
Behavior was also emphasized during this workshop. For example, while sanderlings look similar to all the other little “peeps”, their behavior is like no other bird. Details in distinguishing between gender and age were also discussed. While they won’t influence my eBird list, they are fun, easy traits that can be identified easily out in the field. The stories behind why shorebirds are sexually dimorphic or their migration patterns helps me connect to the facts and make remembering details easier than straight-up memorization.
All the beautiful pictures in the course were excellent representations of the species but also allowed me to see the variation between season and individuals. I offer my heartfelt appreciation to all the donors who contributed to the scholarship fund that allowed me the opportunity to attend these workshops. Mr. Alvaro was extremely enthusiastic and inspiring. He conveyed his knowledge in a very clear, understandable way. These workshops have improved
Lara is an avid teen birdwatcher who has loved birds since she was 3. She has a passion for combining technology and conservation and hopes to study biotechnology. She has volunteered for the Cavity Conservation Initiative, Tree Care for Birds and Other Wildlife, Sea & Sage Audubon, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and other environment-related organizations. She is a Western bluebird monitor and is currently doing a research project on eggshell consumption during the breeding season on these birds with the help of the Southern California Bluebird Club and has done past studies on eggshell consumption as well.
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