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August 31, 2013

Shorebirds continue stopovers during migration

(Continued)

Another delight was the western sandpiper that we picked out of all the similar semipalmated sandpipers congregated on the small island formed in the middle of the Bill Forward Pool. The red scapulars of the western sandpiper shone in the afternoon sun as we scanned from the dike. The least terns would fly into the pool and dive to catch small fish. We also had a brief visit from a Forster’s tern that was also looking to fish the pool. The local ospreys would also be flying overhead, occasionally diving for larger fish, and sometimes putting up the flocks of shorebirds with their shadow. Also hunting nearby was a harrier patrolling the dike for voles and other small mammals. The harrier was not much of a threat to the shorebirds, but it made them nervous every time it came by.

The only other disturbances around Bill Forward Pool were the small planes overhead. For whatever reason, they seem to choose the wildlife refuge airspace to perform their acrobatics. The drone of their engines drowned out the calls of the shorebirds and other songbirds around us, making the experience much less enjoyable when they were overhead.

We did try to venture down to Stage Island and Sandy Point on one of the days. We looked at Stage Island from the road and we were lucky enough to see a Baird’s sandpiper not too far out. We also looked from the tower at Lot 7, but the water level was so low that all the birds were too far out to identify, even with a scope. Overall, there were far fewer shorebirds at Stage, perhaps because the water level was too low. We did see two Forster’s terns fishing the narrow channels that were left. The swallow numbers were still high this past week, but they will certainly move out in the weeks ahead. Many of the egrets have already left as the numbers of great and snowy egrets were far fewer last week.

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