Beware of Phalarope Cougars

Coming back from today’s rather cold 10 mile run a new life mission popped in my head.  I am going to devote the next 5 years of my life learning how to communicate with Squirrels.  Learn their native dialog, dive deep into their culture and master their mannerisms.  Once mastered I shall use that valuable knowledge to engage with our local specimens in the hope to finally answer the most pressing question mankind has forever sought an answer to.. WHY THE HELL DO SQUIRRELS ON THE SAFE SIDE OF THE ROAD IMMEDIATELY FEEL THE URGE TO SPRINT TO THE DANGEROUS SIDE OF THE ROAD WHEN A VEHICLE APPROACHES!?!  It is absolutely insane and I am taking it upon myself to find out what is actually going on in their walnut sized brains.  Note, I may change my mind after the exhaustion finally leaves my body.

Now this fresh specimen has got it right.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Just hang out at the shoreline, no playing Frogger across the busy roads, no accepting double Dog dares to out run the metal boxes with wheels and certainly no games of Chicken out on the asphalt.  Nope, just slosh through the muck in search of tasty morsels.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Hit the jump to read more about our featured specimen.

So, our featured feathered friend today is from the Phalarope family.  Specifically, a Wilson’s Phalarope.  Not a new bird for the checklist as it was featured twice back in 2015 (link here and here). Good news, unlike the previous posts, you can actually tell it is a bird from these shots.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Our fine specimen comes to us from Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  We were down there back in May 2018 to see what interesting birds were drawn to the shallow waters in the flood plain.  Emiquon rarely disappoints and this was definitely not one of those times.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Hope you were not confused by my “fresh” comment above.  The last post on the Barred Owl (link here) may have brought with it some unexpected expectations hehehe.  Fresh in this sense is simply meant to classify it as newly confirmed identity.  I’ve been staring at these pictures for several months trying to confirm the ID.  These shorebirds can get tricky, especially when not in their full breeding plumage.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

I’ve consumed several books on the subject and even took a Cornell class that Ron gifted me.  Those definitely helped, but there is nothing easy when it comes to locking them down.  I was fairly confident, however,  we are at the Eastern edge of their migration region.   They are long distance migrants and would only be on a stopover if we encountered one along our waters.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Ron was able to come down for our limited family Christmas gathering last week, so I took the opportunity to get some better eyes on it.  Now that it was finally confirmed I could pop it off the post queue.  I find most of my readers want to what it is that is being featured rather than just “Here’s a pretty bird”.  Best of all I do not have to make up interesting tidbits for a mysterious bird – although I admittedly find that entertaining as well – word has it the Wilson’s is able to speak Squirrel.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

No need for creative writing here as I have Ron’s stamp of approval.  Hmmm maybe I should see if he speaks Squirrel too.  Back on topic, this Phalarope breeds in mostly the northern US states and into western Canada and then rather quickly high-tails it down to South America through a western US migration path.  Interesting note, Cornell depicts this tighter migration path, yet if you hit their Sightings Map feature (at top next to their Range Map label) you will see there are plenty of migration spottings to the east.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

I must say, their breeding plumage is quite breathtaking.  A mixture of grey, white and black with a full rusty wash on the neck and localized highlights on the wings and back.  As you can tell from our specimen, they lose the deeper greys and rusty wash outside of breeding.  Juveniles also have a similar coloring to the nonbreeding ones, but will sport a darker cap.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Will leave you with an interesting aspect of this Phalarope that isn’t overly common – they follow the polyandry matting program.  Basically the female is the bar hopper in this species.  She sports the more radiant colors, goes on the prowl for a one night stand – hangs out for 18-27 days to purge the results of the frisky night, then puts a note on the nest door and outta there to go look for the next victim.  This is why you see a lot of the juveniles wearing tool belts and sit with their wings in their belt.

Out of pictures, so will call it a post – need to get to the library to pick up some books on Squirrel behavior.  Stay safe everyone.

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