Birding is quite the dilemma... For instance, how many times have you attempted to distinguish the White-face Ibis from the predominate population of Glossy Ibis, OR.... have attempted to find the Cackling Goose from the Canada Goose? Were you successful? Now a more easy species might be the American Plover vs the Black-bellied although one is surely more popular here.
Well....welcome to the dilemma, one that we all face and many times we just have to resort to voting based upon the popularity contest..IE....which bird is seen in these parts more-so than others.
That brings me to the Plover above. Do you see a difference? You should as these are two different species and while both 'can be found' in Jersey, one is much more dominate in regards to population. The Semi-palmated Plover is our species we all know and love. The little peep we see in the marshland, the sands, the mudflats....as they scatter to and fro, much like the crabs I would chase as a youth on the Oregon coast ....(the scattering of, the movement of, the here and there of, the lack of direction of etc etc).
The other day at my usual haunt, I was scanning the peeps at Forsythe and just wondered if I saw a Common Ringed Plover (one or two cited perhaps in how many years?) instead of the usual Semi-palmated Plover. But it took me a bit of doing in my Sibley to figure out the difference and even then, I 'IN THEORY" could be wrong. How?...let me fill you in. Pay attention now and get in a closed dark room void of all sound and distraction or else you won't follow along and understand.
You see....the breeding male (Mar-Sept) Semi-palmated Plover 'does not' have any white supercillium while the breeding male (Mar-Sept) Common Ringed Plover 'does' have a white supercillium. But the tricky part is in the females. Both the Ringed and the Semi-palmated have a white supercillium. So if by chance on the mudflats I saw a male Ringed and a female Semi-palmated, I would see both looking nearly identical. But if I saw a male of both species I could figure it out...but not a female Semi when compared to either a male or female Ringed. There...sounds easy.....
So.....IN THEORY...At Forsythe the other day, I could have seen (A) a multitude of male Semi-palmated Plovers, (B) a multitude of female Semi-palmated Plovers and either (C) one or more odd Common Ringed female plover or (D) one or more Common Ringed male plovers. I have no idea which....and frankly I doubt if anyone could unless they could hear the 'call' which gets equally confusing.
According to Sibley....the Ringed Plover's call is a 'soft tole or too lip, lower and more wooden (eh??????, what?????? wooden?????) than the Semi-palamated Plover which has an emphasis on the first rather than the last syllable. I at one time taught Phonics to kids as an elementary teacher but never thought of breaking up the syllables of a bird call and learn from.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm.........So that brings me to the popularity contest. In New Jersey, vote for New Jersey. So the winner of the contest is that I saw a collection of male and female Semi-palmated Plovers and only Semi-palmated Plovers. While I would like to have labeled ONE of those as a ringed female Common Ringed Plover, it is simply above my pay grade to make that call.
For the record....the picture on the left is a Common Ringed Plover (male or female? not sure) while the picture on the right is a FEMALE Semi-palmated Plover. There.....you have it. So, seek out the plovers all.... seek them out and listen for the true wooden call and/or the second syllable.... That is your challenge this until August.
Aftermath....during the regular Audubon meeting I was sitting next to Al and he seemed to suggest that there are more distinguishing differences than what I have. We ran out of time before the meeting began to get into detail....but your home work is to find differences. You might never see a Common Ringed Plover here in Jersey (99.99 % you won't), chances are not....but be prepared. Now up in Jamaica Bay NY, or Long Island... you might though.