A little excitement at Morningside

This Spotted Sandpiper (left) finally held still for a minute so I good get a photo with the Lesser Yellowlegs.

This Spotted Sandpiper (left) finally held still for a minute so I good get a photo with the Lesser Yellowlegs.


I was kayaking the lake at Morningside this morning. A few shorebirds were present. A good note about the site is the fact that the islands seem to finally be rising up. This event is a full six weeks late, but better late than never. In fact it might be just in time for the biggest movement of juvenile shorebirds this season. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. That said, I was watching one of the new islands. Believe it or not, this island emerged in just the last three days. It is over 50 feet long and about 15 feet wide at its widest point. The shorebirds really seem to be feeding well on the newly exposed mud. As I sat there, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper and 7 Least Sandpipers were all feeding on it. I was taking a few pictures when the Spotted Sandpiper gave a wild screech! All of the shorebirds reacted immediately, either taking off or crouching down. Before I could realize what was happening, an adult Merlin wooshed past me, only feet away! It dove on the shorebirds, taking aim at one in particular. A Least Sandpiper barely escaped and flew off wildly. I followed as the Merlin remained on its tail all around the lake. It is amazing how fast both of these birds fly. As I watched this chase, the shorebirds that had taken off all landed near me again. I continued to follow the two far across the lake. At some point I realized that I could no longer see the sandpiper. The Merlin continued to zig and zag, eventually going well up and over the golf course. It finally disappeared over the horizon. I went back to watching the remaining shorebirds, amazed again at how close I was to them without reaction yet the instant the predator came all chaos broke loose. As I sat there thinking about it, the missing Least Sandpiper flew in, landed, sat down panting and just plopped in that spot for the remainder of my visit. A bit the worse for wear, but he lived to fight another day!

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3 Responses to A little excitement at Morningside

  1. Wow, great post John! I know Merlins have to eat too, but I’m glad the Least made it!

    • Thanks Matt,      I thought he was a goner, and very surprised when it showed up.  I hope you guys get some movement in the black dirt this weekend, its just about the right time.  Keep me posted!  John

  2. kate hyden says:

    Man I hope that camera of yours is in a waterproofed pouch or something! Just watch out for wading bears.

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