by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"When Habitat Disappears"

Long-billed Curlew

curlew         I made a trip to California this spring with my daughters to watch a granddaughter play Lacrosse for BYU. The playing field was right next to a wonderful beach with lots and lots of shorebirds. So in between games, we went to the beach. What a treat that was. The birds brought back some of my fondest memories in southern Utah.

        Before subdivisions were built in the Washington Fields, I was able to see all kinds of birds stopping by small ponds, cattle yards, and grassy fields on their migration routes north and south. A special one was the Long-billed Curlew, and what a sight it was. Only 20+ inches in height, a wingspan of 40 inches, long legs, and an 8 inch curved bill. This was the bird I saw at the beach in California. The Curlew was a bird of the seashore, who used the long bill to probe in mud for shellfish, crabs, and fish. The bill has a rounded tip designed to slide into the earth without breaking or being damaged. When breeding time comes the Curlew goes inland to nest and raise young. The St. George and Washington irrigated alfalfa fields supplied insects and worms and hope for soft mud to probe in. This was never really prime habitat but as the fields decreased in size and the area went from farming to subdivisions, the available habitat disappeared. It has been several years since I've seen the Long-billed Curlew in southern Utah. It was wonderful to see them alive and well in California.

        Brenda Rusnell is the artist for the Long-billed Curlew. If you have questions about birds or any upcoming Red Cliffs Audubon birding event, call 435 673-0996 or visit our home page . Our next field trip will be Saturday, June 15, 2013. We will be traveling to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
We should see many good high elevation species such as Pine Grosbeak, Northern Goshawk, Clark's Nutcracker, and Peregrine Falcon.  Meet at the BLM at 7:00 a.m. and bring a lunch and prepare to have a great time. Public is welcome.

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