Estero Bay, Florida
January 19, 2010
I was feeling especially fortunate with the sheer numbers and diversity of birds when this one little bird stopped me in my tracks. With its comical Pinocchio profile, the curlew's beak is an easy one third of its total length. The largest of all sandpipers - and the largest shorebird in the North America, they're also one of the fastest. Recently, using satellite tracking, one female curlew made it from the prairies of Montana to Mexico in just 27 hours.
Bird nomenclature is always peculiar. A flock of these big-beaked birds can be called a "curfew", "game", "head", "salon", or "skein". A "salon of curlews". Wonder if they give good haircuts.
One last interesting bit of trivia about these guys is that they were so plentiful in the San Francisco area in the late 1800's that Candlestick Point (and later, Candlestick Park Stadium) was named after them. By the time Candlestick Park was completed, their population was nearly extinct in the area, after being overhunted for ladies hats. One might easily deduce - correctly so - that millinery has brought more than one bird species right down to the brink of extinction, including the snowy egret right here in SW Florida.
That's the miracle of photography, really. I can bring home a catch bag to rival that of 19th century hunters, carrying birds of every description, and not a single one loses a life or ends up on my head.
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR, a stable kayak and my lucky star