Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson sent some Road Trip Photos; his notes are indented. Note that he needs ID verification for two species.

Here are some photos from a recent trip down the coast to San Diego.  I’ll break it into two sets, beginning with wading birds observed from a nice path along a levee near the mouth of the San Diego River.

First, a familiar friend, a black-crowned night heron (Nyctocorax nyctocorax).

I hope some of your readers can confirm that these next three are yellow-crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea), all immature.  I saw quite a few of these, some probably duplicates since I walked the same path three times, but there are at least several different individuals and without a single adult.  Perhaps a reader who can confirm the ID can also explain that. 

Here is a willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), a species I am accustomed to seeing in small flocks along our beaches, but I saw only singles this time.

I’m pretty sure these are semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla).  Because of poor lighting, the photo is a bit grainy, but I think it imparts a sort of “painterly” quality that I like.

Snowy egrets (Egretta thula) were about the most common wader, typically in groups of 15-20.   I would find them in one location, then a couple would pick and fly to a new spot.  Gradually, the whole group would follow in flights of two or three at a time.  Attempts to catch then in flight, however, were just frustrating.

Finally, a little blue heron (Egretta caerulea).  I had noticed previously that the terms “heron” and “egret” do not line up with scientific classification.  In this case, the snowy egret and this heron are put in the same genus.  Similarly, the great blue heron and great egret are both placed in Ardea.  Incidentally, on a previous visit to the same trail, I saw mixed flocks of great and snowy egrets but not even one great egret this time.


  1. Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The Snowy Egret pictures are stunning. I’ve never seen such a nice group of them.

  2. alexandra Moffat
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    what a lovely photograph – the 11 egrets in the water, in a circle- doing different things but all together.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Very beautiful! I always enjoy seeing snowy egrets. Apparently their bright yellow feet are used as a kind of lure to bring in prey.

  4. Paul Matthews
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m hardly a yellow-crowned night heron expert, as they are exceptionally rare vagrants where I live (Ottawa, Canada) but I have enough experience with the species to confirm that your three photos are indeed of this species. The first photo appears to be of a bird in adult plumage, albeit very faded. I’m not sure whether this is an immature bird “coming in” to adult plumage or an adult with very old feathers that’s badly in need of a moult.

    I don’t think Semipalmated Sandpipers occur in San Diego except as rarities. The bird in the foreground is no doubt a Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri). I believe the bird behind it is actually of a different species: Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) although it might be another Western with a shorter bill (bill length is variable in this species). If you have another photo showing leg colour and that colour is yellow or yellowish (rather than black), then it’s definitely a Least.

  5. Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Great stroll down by the water and comment, thanks for that.

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