Monday, March 03, 2008

Shorebird bonanza!

While you weren’t able to read my last blog post due to some difficulties with the telephone lines here, my final sentence ended up being prophetic as today (Feb. 29) I definitely saw good diversity and decent numbers of shorebirds for the first time in a month of conducting this survey. I ended today with 20 species of shorebirds represented by a grand total of 322 individuals. The most noteworthy species of these were probably Broad-billed Sandpiper (6), Curlew Sandpiper (11), and Ruff (24) which had all been recorded on just one prior occasion. They are definitely not common at this inland site, but I think that when the habitat is suitable, like this lake is at the moment, they are probably fairly regular migrants through the area. The Broad-billed Sandpiper was doubly exciting for me though because it was the first time I’d ever seen this species! Larger shorebirds were observed roosting on islands in mixed flocks (Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, Common Greenshank, and Marsh Sandpipers). Three species of plovers were present along with both Little and Temminck’s Stints.
The species total of 20 species is quite good and I can’t think of too many occasions when I have recorded this many species in one day. To put this total in perspective, here are my best recollections of my highest personal single day tallies of shorebird species from each significant birding locale I’ve been to; 17 in coastal Norfolk, UK during March, 20 at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu (a coastal site so more expected), 21 in coastal Ecuador in January, 24 at the Salton Sea in CA during Aug, ~25 is my highest in WI in mid-May, and ~30 on the upper coast of TX during late April. All of those totals represent solid day’s worth of effort to find that many species and with the exception of Wisconsin, they all involve salt or brackish water.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful but I relocated the wagtail flock and something flushed the group and they all landed close to each other allowing for 14 of the birds in one frame (below)! Unfortunately, the distance involved with most of these shorebird species prevented me from getting even semi-decent photos, I can offer a shot of the habitat with a flock of Black-headed Ibis probing the deeper water/muck (opening photo). This sort of edge is present around about half of the lake and this is where the majority of the shorebirds are located.

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