Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Lesser Lesser Yellowlegs

There are two types of Yellowlegs, Lesser and Greater. "How do you tell the difference," you ask? Obviously, one is 'greater' or bigger than the other. So, you sort of have to see them side by side to know which is which, right? Not so. The Lesser Yellowlegs has legs slightly longer in proportion to its total body than the Greater, though the Greater is taller. This gives the Lesser a more graceful overall form, which makes it, in the grace department, greater. Don't you just love birding? I have just enough birding experience to make really big identification mistakes. So, I could be wrong about which bird this is in the photos. I'm going partly on what birder's call the gestault or gut take on it. I once knew a wonderful man, Ed Gamble. Long ago, I was the weekend baby-sitter for his children. He was a fantastic carver of birds, especially Maine coast shore birds. His license plate said "Yellowlegs." Every time I see Yellowlegs, Greater or Lesser, I think of Ed Gamble. Each of the Yellowlegs share the same feeding behavior. In the second photo you can see that the bird has its bill in the water. They swoosh the open bill back and forth, close it, gulp, and do it again. They get so carried away with this that they jump around and chase prey across the mud. They act like chickens with their head cut off! I took these photos at Atkins Bay. It is a small, enclosed bay across from Fort Popham in Phippsburg that is actually part of the end of the Kennebec River, though it's thought of as ocean. It drains almost completely when the tide goes out. I go there regularly to see shore birds feeding like these Yellowlegs. It is a small birding paradise. Almost everyone who goes to Popham heads for the beach or the fort. Few bother with the Atkins Bay clam flats. Look what they have missed!

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