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A Time for Shorebirds
By Kyle Carlsen
Contributor | Bird Watcher's Digest
The birds that we call shorebirds include sandpipers, plovers, and other wading birds. In North America, many of these birds nest in the Arctic and travel thousands of miles to their wintering grounds, stopping on marshes and mudflats where many of us can see them in spring and fall. Shorebirds come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but some have confusingly similar plumages, presenting fun but tricky identification challenges. Even when we cannot put a name on every shorebird we see, it's still a highlight of fall to go out and find a flock of shorebirds working the mud flats, thinking about the numerous obstacles these birds must overcome—and the incredible distances they must cover—as they rest and refuel at our local habitats.
Are you a shorebird expert? Here's a quiz covering some fun facts about this cool group of birds.
About how many shorebird species breed regularly in North America?
What do shorebirds eat?
a) Fish and frogs
b) Seeds and berries
c) Bird and turtle eggs
d) Worms and insects
What does "semipalmated" mean, as in semipalmated sandpiper?
a) Slightly streaked plumage
b) Partially webbed toes
c) Well-feathered legs
d) Short-distance migrant
Which is the world's smallest sandpiper?
a) Western sandpiper
b) White-rumped sandpiper
c) Pectoral sandpiper
d) Least sandpiper
When do most shorebirds migrate?
a) During daylight hours
b) At night
c) Nobody knows
d) Shorebirds do not migrate
Shorebirds belong in the order Charadriiformes, which includes what other birds?
d) All of the above
Most shorebirds nest on the ground, but where does the solitary sandpiper nest?
a) On rocky ledges over streams
b) In old songbirds' nests in the tops of trees
c) In underground burrows
d) On rooftops in urban areas
Where might you find migrating shorebirds near you?
a) Flooded farm fields
b) Wetland marshes
d) All of the above
Christine Goff, the award-winning author of international thrillers as well as the Birdwatcher's Mystery series, is back with a new, original, bird-themed mystery exclusively for the readers of BirdWire! Upon publication in BirdWire, each installment of "Death of a Flycatcher" will be posted at birdwatchersdigest.com/ DeathOfAFlycatcher, so you can catch up or encourage a friend to start reading. For more information on Goff and her novels, visit christinegoff.com.
The story so far: U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent Angela Dimato is accompanying a group of volunteers on a habitat restoration project via raft in remote western Colorado. Their objective: remove invasive, exotic tamarisk trees and reintroduce native plants, with the goal of improving habitat for native wildlife, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The group happens upon the camp of two fugitive bank robbers, heavily armed. When Angela and Kate, the crew chief, attempt to call the police they discover the satellite phone has been smashed to pieces. At dawn the next morning, gunshots crack the air: All three rafts have been hit and deflated. Angela explains the situation to the worried volunteers. The only way out of the canyon is to hike, which would put the crew in the line of fire. Raft guide Greg is shot in the leg, and volunteer Julia Glew is missing. Angela sneaks toward the bank robbers' camp, spies both men present, and sees Julia Glew duct-taped to a chair. Angela realizes that the volunteer group's leader, Kate, must be an accomplice to the criminals! She hears one of the men say that they'll have transportation out the next day, and that the volunteers are trapped. As darkness falls, Angela high-tails it to a ghost town two miles away. The store is boarded up, but she manages to make a call from the pay phone outside. Help is on the way. She stumbles back to camp around 1 a.m., where Kate anxiously grills her. Angela lies, saying she made it to Bedrock, but was unable get help. Kate believes her, and asks for a plan.
It hadn't taken long for a crowd to gather near the fire.
Peter was the first to speak. "How are we getting out of here?"
"Good question," Dan said, emerging from a nearby tent. "The tourniquet has stopped Greg's bleeding, but it's been on too long. We need medical help soon, or I'm worried he'll lose his leg."
"Loosen the tourniquet," Damon said.
Dan glared at the teen. "And let him die?"
"No, he's right," Angela said. "If the wound has clotted, loosening the tourniquet might help with the blood flow. If the wound starts bleeding again, apply pressure. Last resort: Retighten it."
"Your idea, you help," Dan said, gesturing for Damon to follow.
As the two moved away, Angela turned to Kate. "We need to set up a watch."
"You take the first shift," Kate said. "I'll relieve you in two hours."
It was the perfect set up, thought Angela. It allowed Kate to slip away and send off the fugitives. They would disappear into the Canyonlands, and Kate would rescue Julia. No harm, no foul.
Kate headed off, and Bobo started to follow.
"Wait," Angela said softly, gesturing to Bobo and Peter to move closer. Putting her finger to her lips, she led them to the edge of the clearing. "I need your help."
She explained her theory about Kate, and Bobo and Peter stared in disbelief.
"You can't be serious," Bobo said.
Angela laid out the events leading up to their predicament.
"Why not just arrest her?" Peter asked.
"Because, as you pointed out we're isolated here. And the robbers have guns. In two hours, she's going to relieve me. We need to set up a trap."