A Shorebird Season After All? - 30 Jul 2017

I drove down to Pt. Mouillee SGA Sunday morning to look for shorebirds. Starting at the Siegler Rd. parking lot I rode the bike along the North Causeway to the Long Pond Unit where I found a half-dozen Semipalmated Sandpipers, a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers, and a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs. Killdeer were present, as well.

not a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
 As I continued on toward the NE corner of the unit I found Adam Byrne, Scott Terry and Brad Murphy parked on the side of the road. They caught me up on the good shorebirding far out in the Long Pond Unit beyond the fresh-plowed field. Sure enough, when I hiked out along the edge of the canal the marsh opened into a nice expanse of grasses and mud patches that held Least Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Solitary SandpipersLesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers (3) and Long-billed Dowitchers (2). A family of Common Gallinule was along the far edge of the cattail marsh and consisted of a single parent with four juvenile birds that could be mistaken for Sora. Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Snowy and Great Egrets were present, as well.

I found myself trying to photograph Tree Swallows as they flew along the canal past me. I wouldn't notice just how much of a molt they were undergoing at this time until I got home to look at photos. It is
amazing that some of these birds can still fly.

A few Bank Swallows were present, also.

A group of 3-4 Caspian Terns were roosting in the grass near a half-dozen Ring-billed Gulls. I got some flight pics as they screeched while circling the open water.

Initial digiscoping was not great as the Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs were far out and partially backlit. These are worn adults - note the blotchy back feathers that are starting to turn gray.

Things improved greatly once I got around to the have the Sun at my back. Compare the quality of a digiscoped still vs. a frame grab from a 4K video.

digiscoped "still"
4K video frame grab

Juvenile birds have appeared. This Least Sandpiper is a juvenile based on the clean, brown feathers that have white and orange fringes and those racing stripes of white feathers down its back. The overall "warm" brown coloration makes them easy to differentiate from Semipalmated Sandpipers even without looking at leg color.

I caught up w/ Myles McNally along the east side of the Long Pond. He had just seen the immature Little Blue Heron fly out to the SW corner of the Vermet, so we didn't talk long. He took off for the bird while I stayed to digiscope a cooperative Snowy Egret along the shoreline. Three more birds were with a group of Great Egrets farther out in the grass.

I was able to take a poor digiscoped video of the Little Blue Heron (distance X backlighting = yuck) but didn't bother to process it. Instead, I took off around the corner to look for more shorebirds.

The south end of the Long Pond Unit held some nice mudflats that were occupied by Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers. The Semipalms were quite aggressive toward each other, and easily ID'd by their call, a machine-gun like water pistol.

The Lesser Yellowlegs were even more aggressive, with birds chasing each other all over the marsh. I took the opportunity to get some flight / fight shots.

An Osprey flew overhead. It was banded, but I could not make out any numbers or letters.

Black-crowned Night Herons were around, as well.

I'll need to check w/ Adam to see if there is any other shorebird habitat nearby, but the Long Pond Unit does hold promise for some decent shorebirding during the month of August.


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