October Shorebirding - 03 Oct 2021
Josh Tally reported seeing a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the same spot that the Hudsonian Godwit was frequenting yesterday. The day was supposed to be a rainout, but there were breaks in the clouds and a break for me to run down to Union Camp Marsh at the southeast corner of Sterling State Park in Monroe Co., MI.
I arrived just in time to see Josh and find the Buff-breasted Sandpiper near shore. Lighting was poor but I went after the digiscoping camera anyway. This juvenile bird was popping against the muddy background.
No sooner did Josh leave that Brian Beauchene showed up. I was able to point him toward the bird and spend some time discussing the pair of dowitchers out on the flats (see next post).
After several minutes a flock of Stilt Sandpipers (12 birds) and Lesser Yellowlegs (2) flew in. All birds were sporting basic plumage and appeared to be mostly juveniles.
Several Dunlin were foraging on the mudflats. These birds were in basic plumage.
At one point a pair of Great Egrets got to squabblin' and I couldn't resist the Audubon-like expression on one particularly animated wader.
Of the three or four Semipalmated Plovers out on the flats one individual caught my attention. It was a bit lighter than the others, and there appeared to be strong contrast between the gray cheek patch and the white forehead. The breast band was also significantly thicker than the others and got me wondering if perhaps I might be looking at a Common Ringed Plover?
I posted the photos requesting some input from others, and got several responses indicating that my bird had a yellow orbital ring that would eliminate Common Ringed Plover. Also, the legs were too yellow and webbing could be seen between the toes. Semipalmated Plover, it is!
The Stilt Sandpiper flock flushed and spent the next minute or two swirling around the marsh in front of us. It gave me an opportunity to get some flight shots despite the low light. A bonus Pectoral Sandpiper would be found among them!
As I scanned the mudflats for more shorebirds I spotted a White-rumped Sandpiper foraging at a distance that was not friendly even to the spotting scope. But its fine-streaked bib and bold eye-line above a smoky brown head was unmistakeable.
When a portion of the Stilt Sandpiper flock landed near the American Lotus bed they were soon joined by a single Hudsonian Godwit.
No sooner had I scoped the godwit that a Peregrine Falcon bombed the mudflats and make a couple of light-hearted attempts at picking off a shorebird or two. Though unsuccessful it was sufficient to scatter all of the shorebirds and empty the marsh in front of us.
With skies threatening more rain it my queue to head home to process another 3000+ photos.
I didn't mention the dowitchers on the mudflats as they were giving me identification fits. I would spend several day doing some identification research and examining photos that I thought I'd share in the next post.