Date: 5/9/18 2:51 pm From: John Kent <k2ent76...> [hmbirds] <hmbirds-noreply...> Subject: [HMBirds] Phalaropes - No
At least three birders visited Alcove between 1 and 3 PM. None of us were able to find the phalaropes. That certainly doesn't mean they're gone, as there are a lot of areas that can't be viewed from the roadside, and trespassing is strictly prohibited anywhere else around the reservoir. When I was there around 3:00, the Long-tailed Ducks were very distant, barely identifiable in the scope due to shimmer. I didn't see any other ducks besides Mallards, no loons, and the only gull was a Ring-billed.
I stopped at Alcove Reservoir this morning, primarily to look for the Cliff Swallows that have nested there for the last few years, near the spillway. I found Barn and N. Rough-winged Swallows, but no Cliff. There was no wind to speak of, and the surface of the reservoir was like glass. With a spotting scope I could pick out three Common Loons, and a group of Long-tailed Ducks, the males displaying said-attribute very nicely. Farther from shore, I watched a gull fly around and eventually land, the white leading edge to the outer wings and lack of black primary tips suggested Bonaparte's Gull, minus the black hood of breeding plumage. As I scoped the gull (it was Bonaparte's, with a black bill and dark smudge behind the eye) I saw two dark waterfowl swimming nearby, and two smaller swimmers behind them. I figured the smaller ones might be grebes, so I concentrated on the dark ones, which turned out to be female/non-breeding plumage Surf Scoters. The small swimmers gradually drew closer, right up next to the gull. They were very small, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the Bonaparte's. They exhibited unique behavior, swimming in circles, zig-zagging from side to side, and poking their heads forward when they swam in a straight line. One bird was more darkly plumaged overall than the other. They had dark caps and necks, grayish upperparts and breasts, white throats, and white undersides at the water line. They held their short necks very upright, and I couldn't see much of a bill at the distance. I had seen the Red-necked Phalarope found by Naomi L. last year, and these birds acted very similarly, and had the same shape and plumage pattern, especially the darker one. I concluded these were also Red-necked Phalaropes, as Red Phalarope would have a much thicker neck and different head shape, and Wilson's Phalarope would have a long neck and striped hind crown, which these birds did not. I hope someone else can re-find them, and get some good images.