Posts Tagged ‘Wilson’s Phalaropes’

Antelope Island

Antelope Island from the causeway on an overcast day. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

Wilson’s Phalaropes 

My newest writing work in progress, since Travels with Maggie is now published, is a book I’m calling Bird Droppings. It’s about my adventures, and that they have been, of being a late-blooming birder.

Female Wilson’s phalarope in breeding plumage. — Wikimedia photo

It’s a passion that addicted me at the age of 60, just when my body was beginning to revolt against my more strenuous outdoor activities of back-packing, white-water rafting, biking and skiing.

Recognizing the new hobby as a major blessing that kept me moving forward in my zest for life, I reveled in the new experiences. And the more I actually learned about birds, the more enamored I became with bird watching.

As I watched for birds on the island, I always saw other wildlife, and pronghorn antelope were frequently among them. — Photo by Pat Bean

At first, I relied on others to make identifications of birds in the field, but there came a point when I wanted to be able to be the first one to say that’s a yellow-rumped warbler or a ruddy duck. Those two, by the way are usually easy to identify. The first, also known as a butter butt, often moons you so you clearly see its golden backside, and the second has a blue bill and a stuck-up tail,

To satisfy my need to be able to identify a bird on my own, I began solo weekly visits, with field guides in hand, to Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake. I called the place my Birding 101 Lab and visited it almost weekly, throughout the seasons, for two years. I never had an outing to the island, which was reached by a six-mile causeway, in which I didn’t learn something new and fascinating.

One of the more interesting birds to me, since I’m a woman who raised five children almost entirely on her own, were the Wilson’s phalaropes. These nine-inch or so shorebirds are members of the sandpiper family. They flock by the hundreds of thousands to Great Salt Lake during the summer. I often watched them swimming around and around in circles, creating a vacuum that would bring up tiny bits of food to eat.

But the thing I enjoyed most about these birds, which I learned from my many bird books and field guides, was that they switched roles. The female had the brightest colored feathers, courted the males, and then left the egg sitting and rearing the young to the gentlemen as well.

As a mom who changed cloth diapers for five children without any help, I couldn’t help but admire the female phalaropes.

            Bean Pat: Refuge https://www.birdnote.org/show/terry-tempest-williams-reads-refuge One of my favorite authors reads a short piece in her soothing voice. This is a real treat, and less than 2 minutes long.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com


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