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September 14, 2013

Encountering an uncommon visitor on Plum Island

(Continued)

Not totally surprising — as I had said, this wasn’t a particularly rare bird. I didn’t see it immediately, but when I turned to look back down the main dike path toward the parking lot, I could see a sparrow feeding. With my binoculars, I could see the boldly patterned face of a lark sparrow! I had brought my scope with me, as I wanted to check out the shorebirds in the Bill Forward Pool while I was there. I turned the scope on this bird, even though it was only about 30 feet away and my view almost filled the frame. It was then that I realized that I had left my digiscoping adapter for my iPhone in the car. So I left my scope set up, and ran back to the car to retrieve the adapter. Once I returned, I was able to get a few very nice photos of the bird with my iPhone.

After watching the bird for 10 or 15 minutes, my attention turned to the croaking and grunting of herons and egrets from the pool. I walked a short distance onto the dike and saw a great blue heron on the near shore and about 20 or more egrets further out in the water.

There were a good number of shorebirds visible on the flats as well, so I hiked out past the tower and went out toward the “gate” the furthest point allowed to public access. I set up the scope and instinctively looked further down the dike road and saw a bird with my binoculars. We have seen buff-breasted sandpipers and whimbrels on top of the dike in the past, so I was hopeful. The bird appeared to be a hawk, so I put the scope on it and it turned out to be a harrier. The harrier looked as if it had some prey, but it had its back to me, so it was difficult to be sure. Still, it seemed content on the dike and the shorebirds were feeding without concern. As I panned the flats, I could see many semipalmated sandpipers and semipalmated plovers feeding on the mud. Numerous white-rumped sandpipers were feeding, as they most often do, while standing in the water, along side the dowitchers and yellowlegs.

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