Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greetings Greater Yellowlegs

Bright eyes, long Yellowlegs, slim toned body, sharp-beak...sounds like the perfect woman eh, one about which many quirky Indie-rock ballads will be written and sung on college campuses across the U.S? Well, surprise surprise, these are also characteristics of the stylish Greater Yellowlegs.

These sharp looking birds are pretty common around the larger Phoenix ponds and canals during the migration months and, to a lesser extent, the winter time. Unlike some of the similarly shaped Stilts and shorebirds that also frequent these habitats, the Yellowlegs like their privacy and are harder to approach. I spotted this bird at the Fountain Hills Lake a few weeks ago, where it was feeding in the water down below a berm. Nearby joggers and onlookers by darned! I left my dignity with a change of clothes in the car and began the wet, grass-staining belly crawl along the top of the berm towards this bird, knowing that this would be one of the better photographic opportunities that'd come my way.

With the elevated berm concealing me from the bird, I focussed the camera, dialed down the exposure compensations, and prepared to fire away. One or two more adjustments, a few more feet of crawling,  and then...ATTACK!
Ugh, photo-bombed by a Coot. He jumped in front of my shot like an old pro. These guys would make excellent bodyguards if they could ever go for more than ten seconds without attacking each other.

The American Coot moved on and, luckily, the Yellowlegs was still there. The larger size, longer beak,  more upright posturing (not always), and general sense of elevated superiority help tell this bird apart from Lesser Yellowlegs, which are also less common around Phoenix. I love the black perforations along the feathers.
Yellowlegs are dainty and delicate, but they also like to fly around and belt out their rattling alarm calls when I really wish they wouldn't. There may not be any great Indie-rock songs about these birds yet, but I'm sure some enterprising birders will get on it soon.