Sunday, June 26, 2011
I'm still skiing, and the other day when I hiked up to go skiing I got 'attacked' by 2 surfbirds. Lots of screeching calls and they came up to within 5 feet of me to do it. Obviously they were getting ready to build a nest.
It is a little weird to see a surfbird up on the tundra and in the snow because they are a bird you typically associate with the coast and the beach. However, surfbirds like rock sandpipers, and murrelets are birds that make their living by the sea but nest in the alpine tundra. Since they do not nest where they make their living like most birds do, it took years for biologists to figure out where they nest. The breeding habits of all these species was a mystery until relatively recently. Harlequin ducks are another coastal species whose breeding habits were long a mystery because they breed on inland streams.
So it is kind of neat to think that if I'd have observed and reported on the surfbirds 50 years ago I'd have been making a biological discovery of great import. And it has been interesting to observe the progression of their nesting behavior. The first time I saw them they were running around and calling over a large area and were particularly aggressive towards me. The last time I saw them only the male was running in front of me and the female stayed quiet and stuck to a particular area. I bet the male was trying to draw me away the nest. And the female remained quiet because she did not want me to find the nest.