New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Milford Shorebirding"- the Western Sandpiper

     Sept. 12, 2012- Milford Point, CT- 9)"Milford Shorebirding"- the Western Sandpiper ( a little delayed)- On the 10th, Patrick Comins was leading a Shorebirding Workshop to Milford Point, and he located a Western Sandpiper in a small flock of peeps. Westerns are a bit uncommon in this State with only one or two being discovered each year mixed in with the large flocks of Semi-palmated Sandpipers that wing their way through our State in the summer. The images below are the Western Sandpiper that Patrick found and the three images were taken by him.. They are being displayed here with his permission-

     I had a few hours that morning and the falling tide was perfect, just after high. On my way out the walkway I ran into Tina Green who was watching the trees for Warblers. She said that she had been down the beach looking for the Western and the Marbled Godwit that was seen there the day before. She hadn't located the Western or the Godwit, and mentioned that the small flocks of Shorebirds were moving around quite a bit. If I located either the Western or the Godwit, I would post it on CTbirds from my Blackberry. As I hopped the small creek at the crossover beach, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers were scampering along the beach and in the scrubby bushes-

      And just as Tina mentioned, the small Shorebird flocks were moving around quite a bit; from one spot to another and then back again, It was obvious something was making them skittish!-

        A few of the Shorebirds broke off from the flocks and landed in front of me. Obviously I was standing in the right place. In the small flock of Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Plovers, and Least Sandpipers was a single White-rumped Sandpiper-

      Least Sandpiper-

       White-rumped Sandpiper (standing behind the Semi-palmated Plover)-

     In a moment, all the Shorebirds were gone and again the flocks scattered along the beach-

      The reason the Shorebirds were so skittish became clear! A juvenile Peregrine came gliding low over the beach!-

      It landed a short distance away and posed for me-

      After five minutes, it took off and flew all the way to the western end of the beach and sat down again-

     I walked back up the beach towards the crossover area and most of the Shorebirds were foraging along the beach. The White Rumped-

      There were many schools of Menhaden near the beach. I didn't see one Osprey.-

     The Peregrine took off and flew up the River. A few moments later this adult Bonaparte's Gull flew in and landed on the sandbar....

      .....where a pair of first summer Laughing Gulls joined it-

     Ruddy Turnstone-

      Semi-palmated Sandpiper-

     The Shorebirds took off again. I figured that the Peregrine was making another visit to the beach stirring up the Shorebirds. That is what happened. The Falcon made a quick pass over the beach and then flew off to Charles Island.

      Most of the Shorebirds returned.....

      .....and landed (again) on the beach almost exactly on the same spot where they took off from.

      I started looking through the Shorebirds in my scope hoping for that Western. At one point, I spotted a longer slightly down curved bill behind a small group of Semi-palmated Sandpipers. I creeped slowly  down the beach (below the high tide line) until I got a little closer and in better position. From a better vantage point, I located the bird. It wasn't the Western but a Dunlin; bill too large, bird too big!-

     Shorebirds came and went. I decided to do what I usually do; take flock shots of the birds and go home and scan through the images later. A few more Shorebirds landed with the others on the wrack line, and others kept flying farther down the beach to Milford. I spent another half hour looking at every bird, but I never found the Western. Among the birds were Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Plovers, Least Sandpipers, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 1 Dunlin, 1 Sanderling, and 1 Ruddy Turnstone.
    A few days later I was downloading all the images and I started scanning through the images of the Shorebird flocks. In the image below, I noticed that the bird (second from the left in the center- below the Semi-palmated Sandpiper) had a longer and slightly curved bill.....

 was the White-rumped Sandpiper-

      In this flock shot which is a few frames in succession, which is the same flock, there is a "longer billed" Semi-palmated Sandpiper on the right side of the flock-

       When I cropped the image, there is the Western (second bird from the right)-

       I cropped the image more and you can clearly see the longer, slightly down curved bill with a small tip, larger head profile, and the dark row of scapulars (clearly noted in Patricks images)-

      Before half the flock flew down the beach to Milford, the flock wheeled around one more time. As it passed, I took a few quick shots. Later during evaluation, the three birds on the right of the left group in the flock stood out-

       When that image was cropped (from left to right- top row)- Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, and Western Sandpiper-

10)- "Stratford Shorebirding (Not Many Left)"- Late Season Willets

     Sept. 14, 2012- Bond's Cove, Stratford, CT. 10)- "Stratford Shorebirding (Not Many Left)"- Late Season Willets- I stopped by Milford Point first thing in the morning and found 2 Shorebirds!! I decided to make a quick run across the Housatonic River to Stratford. It was high tide and that meant the Shorebirds would be roosting on the docks and pilings in Bond's Cove. On the X-dock I found three dozen birds; mostly Greater Yellowlegs (with a few Lesser Yellowlegs), a handful of Short-billed Dowitcher, and 7 larger birds; Willets. I looked hard for the Long-billed Dowitcher, but I didn't see it on the dock or in the Cove. However the very "long-billed" Short-billed Dowitcher in the corner of the dock deserved another look-

          Stretching Short-billed Dowitcher (left foreground) and Greater Yellowlegs (right). Willet on right-

       Willet pushing a S-b Dowitcher along-

      Lesser Yellowlegs-

         Willets and Greater Yellowlegs-

      I was standing behind a small cluster of marsh grass near the dock, when a car drove up. Two men got out, and one was carrying a Canada Goose. They walked down the dock to release the rehabbed Goose and of course all the Shorebirds took off. The Willets are easy to spot-

      (From l to r)- Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs-

     The birds circled the Cove a few times and most landed on the pilings-

      And a few returned to the docks-

      (From l to r) Willet, Greater Yellowlegs and two Short-billed Dowitchers-

          Handsome Willet-

          Dowitchers and Yellowlegs-

       Willet makes a dramatic return to the dock-

         Greater Yellowlegs-

      Willet and Short-billed Dowitcher-

      A few of the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons roosting in the trees across the Cove-


      Willets and Greater Yellowlegs-

          Pair of Willet-

       In the pond across the street from the Michel Co. a small flock of Green-winged Teal with Mallards and Black Ducks- 

       There was also a juvenile Shoveler and three Blue-winged Teal. Here is an eclipse drake-

         Green-winged Teal-

     Three Black Ducks and a Green-winged Teal-

        Green Heron at the Birdseye Street boat ramp-

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT

11)- "Provincetown Seabirding Whale Watch"- Searching for the Sabine's Gull (Part 3)
    continues.......Click on "Older Posts" below right-