Morningside Chaos!

This Merlin was one of the culprits in this mornings chaos.

This Merlin was one of the culprits in this mornings chaos.


This morning I went to Morningside to kayak the lake as usual. Upon entering the water, I had paddled about a couple of hundred feet when I realized I hadn’t seen or heard a bird. I thought “this isn’t good”. I paddled a bit further when I suddenly heard lots of shrieks and squeals and calling shorebirds. I looked up to see shorebirds flying all over, Zigging and zagging all over. A flock of 12 flew toward me. There were 7 of the larger species and 5 of the smaller. I recognized the calls of the smaller birds as Least Sandpipers. I thought the larger birds were Semipalmated Plovers, but they were so backlit in a cloudy sky I couldn’t be sure. I watched them circle around and land on the far islands, so I headed there to see what they were. I arrived to find they were exactly what I thought, but there was also a Semipalmated Sandpiper with the group. As I was taking photos, I heard the previous scenario repeat. I looked toward the other islands and shorebirds were taking off all over. This time the reason was apparent. A Merlin was wreaking havoc among the shorebirds. Realizing how many new birds were present, I was hoping everything would settle down. It didn’t! As shorebirds flew amok in every direction, they eventually gathered into two groups. As they passed over, they picked up the group I had been watching. Circling high, it was easy to count that there were 28 birds of four different sizes. As if things weren’t bad enough, a second Merlin joined in the chase. They eventually chased the birds out of the park and over the tree line. I was bummed! I eventually worked my way over to the other islands to see if there was anything to salvage. There was. 5 Killdeer, 2 Greater Yellowlegs and a number of Spotted Sandpipers never took off with the rest. As I was photographing them, little by little, the birds began to return. Eventually, 12 Least Sandpipers, 7 Semipalmated Plovers and a Semipalmated Sandpiper returned. At least 8 birds never did show up again and I can only wonder what I missed. Unfortunately, both Merlins now returned as well. The scene started to repeat itself, but it had a different theme. This time the Merlins got in a squabble and dove into each other several times. They took their fight over to the roosting trees on the main island and one eventually drove the other off. It then remained, preening and resting from its ordeal. With that, I was able to photograph the now settled shorebirds with ease. An exciting but frustrating event. From Morningside I went to the Bashakill in the afternoon. Another Merlin there tried unsuccessfully to take out a Belted Kingfisher. 2 Northern Harriers, 1 Red-tailed Hawk and 3 Bald Eagles rounded out the raptor show. Passerines weren’t as plentiful as yesterday, but I did manage to find Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, lots of Pewees and the usual suspects. A Chestnut-sided Warbler was the warbler seen today. Great Egrets and Great Blues abound.
One of the juvenile Greater Yellowlegs that didn't flush from the Merlins.

One of the juvenile Greater Yellowlegs that didn’t flush from the Merlins.


Five of the seven Semipalmated Plovers can be seen in this photo. This was a single day high count in recent years.

Five of the seven Semipalmated Plovers can be seen in this photo. This was a single day high count in recent years.

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