This image is not mine, nor is it of the exact bird I was seeing tonight, but was borrowed from a Google Image Search
In an effort to step up my birding game and for the fun of a personal challenge, I am going field guide-less in the field. I'm forcing myself to look harder at the bird, to take good notes about every possible feature and even to try drawing it. After I get home, then I allow myself to look it up. Please bare with me as I struggle along.
I've come across my first ID challenge. Tonight I figured I'd check the small mud flat at the rain water retention pond at Avimor to see if any migrating shorebirds had stopped by. There were a few Killdeer and one odd ball. I was looking down on it from up above in waning light. Here are my field notes in all their glory:
slightly smaller than the adult killdeer near it
bold white eye-ring and spectacles
long yellow-green legs
bill- thick and 1/3 longer than its own head
plain wht belly - the white tapers up throat
head bobs - kind of a whole body twitch, not tail bob like spotted
wing tips extend to tail end
wades and bobs for food, picks stuff off water plants
wings are patterned and darker than throat/head color
brown-gray head and neck
wings are darker brown - almost reddish
white from belly slightly extends up front of shoulder
in flight, lots of white on tail with black middle, top of wings seem all dark
After getting home and consulting a field guide and the web, I am leaning toward a Solitary Sandpiper over Spotted Sandpiper for the following reasons:
1. bill size as compared to head
2. white outer tail feathers with dark central tail feathers
3. yellow-green legs
4. bold eye-ring white supraloral area
5. and the least scientific reason: A Google Image search of Solitary Sandpipers has many photos that match the "general impression" of what I was seeing tonight, especially the contrast between the head/neck color and the wing color.
The hard part comes in that I don't recall white spotting on the upper parts. It could have been the lighting conditions or the age of the bird.
Any tips or suggestions for improving my field note taking will be shamelessly welcomed.