Say Hello to Phoebe, Our Beautiful Baby Girl

by Craig Brelsford

Phoebe & Daddy

Our daughter, Phoebe Lynn Brelsford, was born 1 June 2020 in Orlando, Florida. Phoebe’s first life bird was Wood Stork, flying past our window after delivering our daughter to us. An immaculate white Rock Dove alighted on the windowsill, blessed the child, and flew off. Phoebe’s beautiful mother, Elaine, and I witnessed the miracle.

Phoebe weighed 8 lbs., 3 oz. (3.7 kg) and had a length of 20 inches (51 cm). She bears an unusually close resemblance to her brother, “Tiny” Craig. Even Elaine, shown photos of the children at the same age, mistakes the one for the other. “It’s like Himalayan and Oriental Cuckoo!” we exclaimed.

Phoebe’s Chinese name is Dù Yíníng (杜怡宁). Her English name honors the phoebes (genus Sayornis). Each winter, Eastern Phoebe visits our back yard here in central Florida.

Elaine, Tiny, and I thank God for Phoebe, our inexpressible gift. Wish our daughter well by leaving a comment below.


Pregnant Elaine
Elaine had another smooth pregnancy. Here she is taking a break during our Pregnant Mom Photo Shoot. (Craig Brelsford)
Elaine and Craig
The proud parents, Elaine Du and Craig Brelsford, Elaine being great with child, 3 May 2020. (Craig Brelsford)
Phoebe Lynn Brelsford moments after her birth. (Craig Brelsford)
Phoebe, age 6 days. (Craig Brelsford)
Phoebe our blue mermaid. (Craig Brelsford)
Tiny and Meimei
In Phoebe Tiny has gained a friend for life. Our earnest hope is that their brotherly love will continue into the 22nd century. (Elaine Du)
Tiny and Meimei
The solemnity shown by Tiny, age 2½, in the presence of his sister belies his young age. (Craig Brelsford)
Phoebe here, as usual, is asleep, but not at rest—her body and brain are undergoing rapid development. (Elaine Du)
Phoebe awake and alert, 23 June 2020. (Elaine Du)
Elaine, Tiny, Phoebe
Elaine (R) and I birded China together from 2012, the year we met, to 2018, when we returned to America. I love and cherish the life we had in China. Elaine and I still talk about the walk she and I took one cloudless evening in Xining, Qinghai in July 2016. It was the midpoint of our very best birding trip, our summer-long expedition to the Rooftop of the World. With glorious memories of Qinghai still fresh, we resolved that night to give up high-stakes birding and start a family. Two children resulted from that decision: our son, ‘Tiny’ Craig, born in Shanghai in 2017, and our daughter, Phoebe, born 1 June 2020 in Florida. Elaine and I are passing on to our children our love for birding. Tiny has already shown flashes of brilliance, being able to identify by sound tough species such as Chuck-will’s-widow. Our daughter’s name was inspired by the phoebes, a genus of New World tyrant-flycatchers. (Elaine Du)
The Brelsfords on Father’s Day, 21 June 2020. Clockwise from L: Craig Brelsford, ‘Tiny’ Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, and Phoebe Brelsford. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. This is abounding. To fail to cherish moments such as the one I am currently living through would be an instance of ingratitude of the highest magnitude. (Susan Brelsford)

Featured image: Phoebe Lynn Brelsford, age 6 days, photographed at her home in Debary, Florida, USA. (Craig Brelsford)


This post is the second in a series celebrating the Brelsfords’ children. See also

Say Hello to Tiny, Our Beautiful Baby Boy

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Shanghai Birds in Alaska, Part 2: St. Paul Island

terek sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper, St. Paul Island, Alaska. This is the species of which U.S. birder Chris Feeney writes, ‘A shorebird flew in right past us. We saw the upturned bill and in unison yelled, “Terek Sandpiper!” Another super ABA bird for me.’ In his second post for about birding Alaska, Feeney describes thrilling moments with Asian vagrants during his month-long stay on the remote island. (Chris Feeney)

by Chris Feeney

Chris Feeney

In the fall of 2012 I spent more than a month on St. Paul Island, Alaska. My main goal was to see Eurasian strays. These species are well-known to Shanghai birders, and seeing them on U.S. soil is a real treat. St. Paul is in the Pribilof Islands north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea. It is not a large island, having an area of 43 square miles (111 sq. km). It has a nice variety of habitats, from sedge marshes, volcanic rock areas, tidal lagoons, and a quarry to large areas of wild celery. The rock cliffs hold large numbers of breeding alcids and kittiwakes.

Several good roads connect some of the best birding areas on the island. In a typical birding day one can cover most of the island, unless, of course, great rarities are found! Normally I do not take tours. However, the setup at St. Paul is such that only tour personnel can go to some of the best birding areas. I therefore signed up for the tour. For most of my 29 days on the island, I was the only person on the tour.

I got to St. Paul in the afternoon of August 19th. I was met by Doug Gotchfeld, one of the St. Paul Tours guides. He told me that a Pin-tailed Snipe had not been seen in several days and had probably moved on. However, two Little Stint and a few Red-necked Stint were around. The stints were being seen on a creek mudflat near Antone Lake. On the way there we passed the Salt Lagoon, and Doug showed me my first ABA Red-necked Stint. We arrived at the Little Stint spot not too long after and were rewarded with great views of both Little Stint, a life bird for me. We worked our way back to the Salt Lagoon, where Doug showed me a Grey-tailed Tattler, another ABA bird for me. I was very happy at that point, but the excitement had just started. Doug and I went to the Town Marsh, where in 2010 I had first seen Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper. I was hoping to see both again. Doug and I walked into the marsh and were scanning when a shorebird flew in right past us. We saw the upturned bill and in unison yelled, “Terek Sandpiper!” Another super ABA bird for me. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were in the Town Marsh as well.

The next day I had Ryan O’Donnell as my guide. We were in the northern part of the island when a very large raptor flew over. It was the White-tailed Eagle that had been seen for several months on the island. Another life bird.

On August 24th we found a Common Snipe in the Polavina Wetlands, for me another great ABA bird. Also on the 24th, Doug Gotchfeld and one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service individuals relocated the Pin-tailed Snipe on the far western side of the island. It was about a two-mile hike up to the area where the bird had been seen. On the 26th, Ryan O’Donnell, Craig Caldwell from Ohio, and I took the hike up to look for the snipe. We got to the general area and were walking around when the bird flushed up and flew across the hillside very close to us. It was calling as it went by. It flew off into a large marshy area. I took two more trips up to that area, but we never saw the Pin-tailed Snipe again. Several days later we saw a Lesser Sand Plover. The Little Stint, Red-necked Stint, and Grey-tailed Tattler were still seen regularly. A Ruff appeared at the Town Marsh.

September brought in some great Eurasian birds. On the 3rd I got my ABA Brambling. On the 6th I was in the quarry with Scott Schutte, who was in charge of the tours at that time. We had seen some Snow Bunting and not much else. We saw a flycatcher on the rocks. It turned out to be Dark-sided Flycatcher. That same evening birder Steve Heinl got in touch with us. They had seen a small brown bird in the celery patch near the Webster House in the northeast corner of the island. We went out to the site but could not relocate the bird. Steve thought it may have been a Fox Sparrow.

The next day, the 7th of September, Scott Schutte told me that he, Doug, a friend Andy Bankert, who had just come off a research vessel, and I would be going back to Webster House to look for the little brown bird. Scott had a feeling it was not a sparrow. My knees were bothering me after walking the celery patches, so I told Scott that I would wait on the dike while they walked the area, about 100 yards from me. Moments later my radio crackled: “Good bird, get out here.” I worked my way out to them and was told that in the celery was a Rufous-tailed Robin. We worked the area but did not have enough folks to flush the bird. Doug went back and got another group. At that point we had 14 people to cover the area. We spread out and started moving through the area. That did it! The Rufous-tailed Robin flushed up and flew across giving all of us excellent looks. We put it up one more time and Doug got great photos to document the find. It was the second island record.

Toward the end of my time on St. Paul I was with Doug Gotchfeld again, and we located another Common Snipe in the Tonki Wetlands. The following day, September 11th, Doug asked me if I wouldn’t mind going back to the Tonki Wetlands as a birder in another group needed Common Snipe for a life bird. We gathered at the Tonki Wetlands and started to move through the marsh. A small snipe jumped up right between another birder and me. It was not a Common Snipe, but a Jack Snipe! My second one on St. Paul Island. That was a life bird for several people.

I left St. Paul on September 16th. Unfortunately for me, St. Paul Tours raised their prices significantly, so I have not returned to St. Paul since 2012. The island is still one of the best places to see Eurasian flycatchers and also Long-toed Stint, so I may return at some point to look for birds I still need for my ABA list.


Map of Alaska showing location of St. Paul Island (57.186924, -170.257459), explored for 29 days in August and September 2012 by American birder Chris Feeney. Inset shows positions of Alaska and Shanghai, both in red. (Ian Macky/Craig Brelsford)
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
In western Alaska, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata is noted regularly in autumn and rarely in spring. (Chris Feeney)
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla is closely related to America’s Bald Eagle H. leucocephalus. (Chris Feeney)
wood sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola has bred on the outer Aleutians. It is an uncommon vagrant to the Pribilofs and a common passage migrant in Shanghai. (Chris Feeney)
Little Stint
Little Stint Calidris minuta is a very rare vagrant to Shanghai as well as to Alaska. (Chris Feeney)
Grey-tailed Tattler
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes is a regular vagrant to Alaska and an uncommon passage migrant in Shanghai. (Chris Feeney)
Dark-sided Flycatcher
The place in North America where Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica is most recorded is St. Paul Island. (Chris Feeney)
St. Paul is the home of a large number of Northern Fur Seal. (Chris Feeney)
st paul
Town Marsh with village of St. Paul in background. (Chris Feeney)


This post is part of a series on East Asian birds in Alaska, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. Others:


Breeding Arctic Warbler Plus Vagrant Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Accentor in Alaska


Birds of the Yamal Peninsula, Northwest Siberia

Siberian Grouse and Blakiston’s Fish-Owl at Sikhote-Alin in the Russian Far East

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ID Guide: Long-toed Stint

Long-toed Stint
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta, Jiangsu, China, September. (Craig Brelsford)

by Craig Brelsford

Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta is a common migrant along the Chinese coast. Regularly recorded inland. Winter records from Guangxi, Guangdong, and Hainan; also Taiwan. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Migrants prefer freshwater and brackish coastal habitats with vegetation but can occasionally be found on mudflats. Usually seen singly or in small groups. ID & COMPARISON Small, but slightly larger than very similar Least Sandpiper C. minutilla; more slender and longer-necked than Least, with longer legs and toes. Both species have long tertials covering wing tip, and hence show no primary projection. Least Sandpiper is slightly smaller and less bright and has a fainter white eyebrow that does not split; eyebrow of Least reaches bill and forehead, isolating the dark lores, but in Long-toed dark forehead meets lores at base of bill, and hence supercilium does not reach base of bill. Juvenile and non-breeding Long-toed resemble miniature Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata. Breeding adults have black-streaked, rufous crown that extends to base of bill. Very narrow black lores. White supercilium, often split over eye, extends between lores and crown. Face, neck, and breast streaked brown or black. Mantle, scapulars, coverts, and tertials mainly black with rufous fringes and white tips (prominent white “mantle-V” in juveniles). Underparts in all plumages white. Non-breeding adult grey above, with dark-centered feathers fringed greyish-brown. Juvenile similar to adult, but brighter; has dark ear patch. Long legs yellow or green; in flight, toes trail behind tail; narrow white wing bar and white uppertail coverts divided by black central band from rump to tail. BARE PARTS Bill black, with pale base to mandible. VOICE Soft, liquid flight call. — Craig Brelsford


Click the links below for coverage on of species related to Long-toed Stint:

Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Red Knot C. canutus
Broad-billed Sandpiper C. falcinellus
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata
Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii
Spoon-billed Sandpiper C. pygmaea
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis
Sanderling C. alba
Dunlin C. alpina
Little Stint C. minuta
Pectoral Sandpiper C. melanotos


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for my Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which the species description above is drawn.


Alderfer, Jonathan, ed. (2006). National Geographic Complete Birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

Brazil, Mark (2009). Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Brazil, Mark (2018). Birds of Japan. Helm Field Guides, London.

eBird (2020). eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Long-toed Stint ( Accessed: 7 June 2020.

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps (2000). A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press.

Message, Stephen & Don Taylor (2005). Waders of Europe, Asia and North America. Helm Field Guides, London.

Svensson, Lars, Killian Mullarney, & Dan Zetterström (2009). Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. 2nd ed. HarperCollins, London.

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