I have been having a really difficult week. For those of you closest to me, I appreciate all the support you have given me. One comforting distraction has been the opportunity to get away and do some birding. I was able to get out for a while each of the last two days, spending that time at Morningside Park.
Morningside Park – Just when I thought the fall season wasn’t going to happen at Morningside, it kicked into full swing. As you have already seen, A juvenile Sanderling spent three days at the park among a good list of birds. Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. Then on Monday, it really began to jump. The minute I arrived, I spotted a tern flying around the lake. It was distant and I assumed it would be a Common Tern. In recent years, this has been the most common tern. (Black Tern is most common historically) I checked out the shorebirds, the Sanderling was gone, and all the regular species were present. I then followed the tern around the lake. It was diving and feeding regularly, and as I got closer, I began to suspect that the bird was actually a FORSTER’S TERN! It may sound strange, but from a kayak, unless distant, you spend most of your time viewing the underside of the bird. When distant, the full bright sun makes it tough to see the field marks well. At any rate, I was able to confirm it was a FOTE. I got some identifying shots of the bird and enjoyed watching its feeding behavior throughout my time there. I finally paddled back to the muddy islands. As I neared, you guessed it, the Merlin came shooting through. I was astounded to see it was after ten AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER! The birds immediately took flight, heading to the far end of the lake. As they circled and came back, they gained altitude and it was clear they were leaving. I was able to snap one distant shot as the went over the horizon. Since they hadn’t been there when I first arrived, they must have come in while I was busy with the tern. I’m offering a bounty on the Merlin, now there three full weeks! (just kidding) I got out again Tuesday and was really surprised to find the Forster’s Tern still happily feeding on the lake. I got more photos and it kept me entertained for some time. When I went back to the islands, I sifted through the shorebirds again. As I did so, I heard an unfamiliar call. I watched as the bird flew in and quite certain it was a Baird’s Sandpiper. I had good views in flight and anxiously awaited it to put down. It eventually did, but remained only seconds and took off again. After circling the lake, it disappeared. Fifteen minutes later the bird returned and repeated the entire process, once again taking off before I could get close. The perched Merlin may very well be the reason for the birds discomfort, it never went after the bird that I could see. We are at a peak time for shorebirds and hopefully more will arrive with the unsettled weather this week.