I heard from our Regional reviewer this evening that my entry of Forster’s Tern has not been accepted by ebird. He was able to site several reasons that the bird was in actuality a Common Tern. The bird is a very specific age, a hatch year juvenile, that shows the combination of characteristics that this bird displays. The white forehead, carpal bar in wing and paler underwing with slight dark edging, orange bill, the back color which is difficult to assess except in the last photo from the second day, all indicate a juvenile Common Tern. While I love terns, my expertise is still wanting with these birds. I just don’t get enough exposure to them. My apologies for the mis-identification.
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.
This morning the torrential rain began to abate around 10:30 am so I headed up to Morningside Park. There was a decent fallout of shorebirds there and I drifted among the islands for two hours photographing the birds. Here’s a list of what I had:
Semipalmated Sandpiper – 10
Lesser Yellowlegs – 5
Least Sandpiper – 5
Solitary Sandpiper – 1
SANDERLING – 1
Three of the five American Golden-plover found by Jim Schlickenrider today!
As I was finishing up, it began to pour again. Just then I got a text from Rob Stone that he had found a Stilt Sandpiper on Turtle Bay Road. I notified Karen Miller and we zoomed down with hopes of seeing the bird. Unfortunately, before we arrived, the bird took off. Still stoked, we birded the area. Rob then found some BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS! We made it over in time for me to find them. Again, almost immediately they took off. Onward! We all returned to Turtle Bay, hoping the birds had shown up there. Rob spotted a sandpiper in the field and we were all pleased to see a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! We all split up (we had met Linda Scrima by now) and covered different areas to maximize our efforts. I wasn’t making out to well, having only found an additional pair of PECTORAL SANDPIPERS at the Camel Farm. Just then, Karen notified me that my old friend Jim Schlickenrider had found 5 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER near the Golf Course. I zoomed over and joined him. The plovers remained only about five more minutes and took off as more shorebirds flew in. This time the group included 3 Greater Yellowlegs and 5 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS ! Once again, they remained no more than five minutes before they took off. I eventually headed back to the sod farm, but had nothing new. I headed back to Sullivan County, having seen a dozen species of shorebirds for the day!
I have to post a shot of the Sanderling each day that it remains!
There was little change in the county today. There were few warblers at the Bashakill, in fact few migrants of any kind. At Morningside Park the Sanderling Continues, now the second day. The Merlin continues as well, though the count was down by one Least Sandpiper this morning. Five Semipalmated Sandpipers, three Killdeer and one Spotted Sandpiper the only other shorebirds seen. The winds have completely turned around, coming now from the southeast. This should stall any further migration of these shorebirds, quite likely to their peril. Lets hope for the best. One other highlight this morning was that when I stopped to see if I could find the Black Vulture chick at the landfill, I found two of them!
The adult is on the right, the two recently fledged juveniles with down covered heads on the left.
I returned to Morningside this afternoon at 3:30 pm. I wanted to let some people interested in this bird know if it continued. It did and showed very well. There was a slight difference in shorebirds this afternoon. Three each of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers were present as well as one Killdeer. I fortunately did not see the Merlin this afternoon. I notified the people who had expressed an interest and Lance Verderame was able to come to see the bird while I was there. At one point, the bird flew from another island and landed just about ten feet from me. As Lance watched, the bird ran right up to me, only three feet away and looked right into my eyes. I haven’t had this type of experience anywhere but here. Hopefully with continued good winds overnight, more birds will come in and be seen tomorrow!
I liked this shot, but wished it hadn’t been cut off.
Beautiful Juvenile Sanderling at Morningside Park!
In what has been a meager fall for shorebirds, Morningside delivered its first good bird of the season this morning. With stiff winds at about fifteen miles per hour, I headed out in my kayak. It became immediately apparent it wouldn’t be an easy ride. The waves were about a foot high and I had to manage the kayak so I didn’t get turned sideways and risk flipping over. It wasn’t easy. I had only experienced it this rough one time before. I managed to get to the islands/mudflats and start searching for birds. My first find was a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper. Moving on, I spotted two Lesser Yellowlegs and noted some peeps feeding near them. I paddled over to find three Semipalmated and two Least Sandpipers nearby. Two of the Semipalmateds took off, flying just over to the far left side of the island. I followed them and immediately noted a slightly larger paler shorebird that disappeared into the root tangles. I was hoping for a Baird’s Sandpiper and quickly paddled to that end of the island. I was very surprised when a fresh juvenile SANDERLING came out into the open! This is only the fifth record of Sanderling in the county, all found by me over the last twelve years. I immediately put the word out, hoping some of my friends could come see the bird. You can guess what happened next. The Merlin swooped through out of nowhere and sent the shorebirds skyward! Feel free to insert my expletives here! While there have been four others, all of which I was able to video or photograph, no one else has ever arrived in time to see them. I was so relieved when ten minutes later, half the shorebirds returned, including the Sanderling! Ultimately this time, Karen Miller, Arlene Borko and Scott and Paula Baldinger were all able to arrive and see the bird through their scopes from shore! Never a dull moment! Also present were two Killdeer, giving me six shorebird species for the morning. Great birding!
Beautiful Juvenile Least Sandpiper
The Sanderling with a Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper for comparison.
This morning, following a drs. appointment, I headed to the Bashakill. Lance Verderame had called me last night informing me that the radar was lit up with migrating birds. I first stopped in the Pine Boat Launch. Before I made it half way in the road I had to stop just past the cabin. There was a good mixed species flock just coming in from the swamp maples. 6 Black-throated Green Warblers, two TENNESSEE WARBLERS, Magnolia, Canada, a Cerulean and Black and White warblers were all present with Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos. From there I went to the Orchard which was basically dead at the time. I got a text from Scott Baldinger informing me the Nature Trail was jumping so I headed there. “JUMPING” it was! Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers, American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat were all seen. (I had over forty individual warblers this morning) Two YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS gave a nice show (Scott had three and we had another at the Deli Fields). Eastern Phoebe and Pewee were also seen. With many of the more common species present, I ended the morning with 41 species! Not bad!