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August 31, 2013

Shorebirds continue stopovers during migration

The weather over the past several weeks has been very comfortable for birding. The cooler mornings quickly warm up into the 70s, and sometimes low 80s, without oppressive humidity. If you are anywhere near the coast, there has been just enough of a breeze to keep you cool and to keep the insects at bay.

Standing in one place with a spotting scope and scanning for shorebirds, one can focus on the task of identifying what you are seeing without battling the elements, the mosquitoes or the no-see-ums. We took advantage of these conditions by spending a couple of days last weekend on Plum Island. Most of the shorebirds were gathering at Bill Forward Pool during the higher tides, so we spent a lot of time at the Bill Forward Blind in the morning and on the Hellcat dike in the afternoon, in order to keep the sun behind us as much as possible.

Of course, many other birders had the same idea, so parking at the blind was limited with such a small parking area. The Hellcat Trail parking lot was never half-full any day that we were there. The majority of the shorebirds were semipalmated plovers, semipalmated and least sandpipers, short-billed dowitchers and black-bellied plovers.

There were also respectful numbers of white-rumped sandpipers, lesser and greater yellowlegs, and an occasional killdeer and spotted sandpiper. Highlights were the two golden plovers that were among the black-bellied plovers on one morning.

One or two Hudsonian godwits, large shorebirds with long, upturned bills, that tower over all the others, were present both days. We were told that stilt sandpipers made appearances, but we weren’t there at those times. A single piping plover, so light in color, looked out of place on the mudflats of this fresh water pool. We usually see them on the outer beach or at Sandy Point. A pectoral sandpiper was more at home on the muddy flats, and we had seen another pecking at the mud at the edge of North Pool when we had stopped at the North Pool Overlook.

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