Beware of Phalarope Cougars

Coming back from today’s rather cold 10 mile run a new life mission popped in my head. I am going to devote the next 5 years of my life learning how to communicate with Squirrels. Learn their native dialog, dive deep into their culture and master their mannerisms. Once mastered I shall use that valuable knowledge to engage with our local specimens in the hope to finally answer the most pressing question mankind has forever sought an answer to.. WHY THE HELL DO SQUIRRELS ON THE SAFE SIDE OF THE ROAD IMMEDIATELY FEEL THE URGE TO SPRINT TO THE DANGEROUS SIDE OF THE ROAD WHEN A VEHICLE APPROACHES!?! It is absolutely insane and I am taking it upon myself to find out what is actually going on in their walnut sized brains. Note, I may change my mind after the exhaustion finally leaves my body.

Now this fresh specimen has got it right.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Just hang out at the shoreline, no playing Frogger across the busy roads, no accepting double Dog dares to out run the metal boxes with wheels and certainly no games of Chicken out on the asphalt. Nope, just slosh through the muck in search of tasty morsels.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Hit the jump to read more about our featured specimen.

So, our featured feathered friend today is from the Phalarope family. Specifically, a Wilson’s Phalarope. Not a new bird for the checklist as it was featured twice back in 2015 (link here and here). Good news, unlike the previous posts, you can actually tell it is a bird from these shots.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Our fine specimen comes to us from Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. We were down there back in May 2018 to see what interesting birds were drawn to the shallow waters in the flood plain. Emiquon rarely disappoints and this was definitely not one of those times.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Hope you were not confused by my “fresh” comment above. The last post on the Barred Owl (link here) may have brought with it some unexpected expectations hehehe. Fresh in this sense is simply meant to classify it as newly confirmed identity. I’ve been staring at these pictures for several months trying to confirm the ID. These shorebirds can get tricky, especially when not in their full breeding plumage.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

I’ve consumed several books on the subject and even took a Cornell class that Ron gifted me. Those definitely helped, but there is nothing easy when it comes to locking them down. I was fairly confident, however, we are at the Eastern edge of their migration region. They are long distance migrants and would only be on a stopover if we encountered one along our waters.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Ron was able to come down for our limited family Christmas gathering last week, so I took the opportunity to get some better eyes on it. Now that it was finally confirmed I could pop it off the post queue. I find most of my readers want to what it is that is being featured rather than just “Here’s a pretty bird”. Best of all I do not have to make up interesting tidbits for a mysterious bird – although I admittedly find that entertaining as well – word has it the Wilson’s is able to speak Squirrel.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

No need for creative writing here as I have Ron’s stamp of approval. Hmmm maybe I should see if he speaks Squirrel too. Back on topic, this Phalarope breeds in mostly the northern US states and into western Canada and then rather quickly high-tails it down to South America through a western US migration path. Interesting note, Cornell depicts this tighter migration path, yet if you hit their Sightings Map feature (at top next to their Range Map label) you will see there are plenty of migration spottings to the east.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

I must say, their breeding plumage is quite breathtaking. A mixture of grey, white and black with a full rusty wash on the neck and localized highlights on the wings and back. As you can tell from our specimen, they lose the deeper greys and rusty wash outside of breeding. Juveniles also have a similar coloring to the nonbreeding ones, but will sport a darker cap.

Wilson's Phalarope found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in May of 2018

Will leave you with an interesting aspect of this Phalarope that isn’t overly common – they follow the polyandry matting program. Basically the female is the bar hopper in this species. She sports the more radiant colors, goes on the prowl for a one night stand – hangs out for 18-27 days to purge the results of the frisky night, then puts a note on the nest door and outta there to go look for the next victim. This is why you see a lot of the juveniles wearing tool belts and sit with their wings in their belt.

Out of pictures, so will call it a post – need to get to the library to pick up some books on Squirrel behavior. Stay safe everyone.

14 thoughts on “Beware of Phalarope Cougars”

  1. I think walnut-sized may be optimistic for squirrel brains; probably more like grapenut-sized.

    I’m very happy to see the increase in posts since retirement, but am having trouble keeping up with everything else I’ve found to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was trying to be generous on the Squirrel front – this is one of the items I will definitely confirm in my research. My guess, like humans, it may be a walnut size, but many are using only 20% of it. I have definitely been busy in a weird sort of way. I am clearly not at the level rigor prior to retirement, but yet at the end of the day I am still wondering where the hell all the hours went – doesn’t help I’m under the gun to hit my annual goal for miles so the foot pounding is taking a chunk. It is in reach now if I continue to push – in fact, if my 50 mile race had not been canceled I’d be done now. Keep busy and thanks for stopping by.

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  2. For a bird that mostly migrates down your west coast we get them turn up here on occasion!
    I’ve seen one, only one and it was a glorious female in full breeding plumage. Not trying to rub it in but they are stunning. No I never had a camera back then but got the memory. Also remember getting a chipped windshield a few miles from home, by the time we got to the twitch a hundred odd miles later it had spread right across! (I swear you could see the crack growing).
    As for squirrels did I tell you I hate them little fu*@*>s? Luckily not seen one at our new place (luckily for them!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barn Owls and full breeding plumaged female Phalarope – your are killing me this week ha! Sometimes the memory is even better than the photograph – sometimes the camera’s limited dynamic range ends up tarnishing the moment although I do have a running joke with Brad M above as to an event never happening without evidence hehehehe! On my hatred scale, the Squirrel happens to fall surprisingly far down on my list:

      #1 Moles
      #2 Chipmunks
      #3 Muskrats
      #4 Mice/Voles
      #5 Adult Raccoons
      #6 Possums
      #7 Stubborn ass Donkeys
      #8 Grizzly Bears (long childhood story)
      #9 Coyotes
      #10 Squirrels
      Note, Linda says Snakes trump ALL those.

      It is possible the Squirrels are lower thanks to the Coyotes keeping them under control most of the year but it open season if we see their packs near the house – they might develop a taste for Poodles and Linda won’t allow that. Thanks for coming by B. and glad I was able to feature a bird you were able to relate to.

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      1. How can you dislike Chipmunks? They’re so cute! And that’s what people think about the Grey Squirrel. Introduced over here in the 1800’s it has decimated the natural Red Squirrel population through out competing for food and habitat but also by transmitting squirrel pox. The greys destroy nests and eggs and kill trees by bark stripping. All in all NOT cute! I used to, er, repatriate dozens in the old garden.
        With you on Moles. They used to make a right mess of our lawns in the last place but I got pretty good at trapping, hopefully now we are out of the countryside they won’t come back to haunt me (Mrs H says they will and all the ex squirrels).
        Apart from rats & mice we don’t have much trouble with the other critters on your list, which is a good thing otherwise I would be seriously worried!

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    2. That cuteness will only get you so far – I have to completely tear out the slap of concrete off my porch thanks to those bastards who were diligently undermining the entire slab until is dropped. Their cuteness does get them a stay of execution as I won’t kill them, but do relocate them (alive) to a large forest preserve down the street. Thankfully Moles are just plain ugly so they get dispensed without a bit of remorse – highly recommend the underground scissor traps – quite efficient. Don’t want to destroy your hopes.. but we live in the country and we definitely have all those critters with the exception of Grizzly Bears (sounds like we should introduce a few more of them over there (just kidding).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am beginning to think squirrel proof is a fantasy – in the same vein as racoon proof and as far as I know ,nothing is off limits to critters with opposable thumbs – nothing! Thanks for dropping in William and will let you know what they reveal once I learn their language ha!

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  3. This one tickled my funny bone. Plus, the comments from your loyal followers gives great insight into our wild friends (ok, maybe not friends if they jump in front of a moving vehicle at the last moment). I have to add groundhogs to a list of all time worse animal list. In MN the wood chuck also one that liked to cause undo harm to my porch structure. I think learning their language would also require a course in interrogation so you can get the truth.๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ way to much fun with this โ€œbirdโ€ post. Happy healthy holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I forgot about Groundhogs – now those can be destructive, fortunately, the Coyotes keep them at bay around here most of the time – absolutely only good use for a Coyote! Hmm, I didn’t think about the interrogation route. Those devious varmints may try to trick me.. lie to me about the meaning of a Squirrel symbol and then become the laughing stock of the forest when I get it tattooed on me in order to truly embrace the culture. May need to rethink this whole thing. Luckily I have another long run tomorrow so I’ll have plenty of time to noodle on it. Thanks for dropping in CJ.. and for the idea ha!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Them damn Squirrels are crazy I tell ya! If I can just convince our government to fund my research we’ll be able to get to the bottom of it. Glad I could bring at least a moment of joy – stay safe out there.

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