Monday, August 24, 2009

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - Wind Lake Sod Farms

I haven't been able to get out and bird as much as I would like this August and was getting the itch to go shorebirding since right now is prime time for lots of the more sought after species (Buff-breasted Sand, Western Sand, any large shorebird, or a Eurasian stray). So this evening I decided to go hit the Wind Lake Sod Farm, the traditionally productive spot for "grasspipers". The Sod Farms are rather spread out across several square miles of fields interspersed with soybeans and corn so it isn't a cake walk finding where the shorebirds are here (google earth screenshot below with mapped noteworthy sightings). I purposely had waited until after the tractors and workers who frequent these fields during the day had gone home so I wouldn't have them flushing the shorebirds up or giving me grief for parking along the side of the road... My first stop yielded a nice and close American Golden Plover among some Killdeer, always a treat to see. I continued scanning when I noticed hundreds of birds flushing from a very distant tilled field to my west. The sun angle was pretty rough so it was hard to discern much on the birds but my impression was that most of them were starlings, killdeer, and swallows. I continued panning though in the hopes of noticing some other shorebirds kicked up. Then I got on a tight group of fairly large shorebirds that had the streamlined front loaded look of pluvialis plovers to me. I whistled my best imitation of Black-bellied Plover (acquired while out in Cape May hearing them go over the seawatch multiple times daily) and to my surprise they turned and came flying right over me -- 25 American Golden Plovers! They continued on to the east and I lost sight of them. Just then John Winze pulled up and we decided to work our way down Burmeister Rd. to the east. After four fruitless stops we stopped and were scanning a field of mostly dead sod scraps to the north of the road and we immediately began picking up golden plover and we figured this is where my flyover flock earlier had put down. Then I noticed the lone Buff-breasted Sandpiper out towards the back of the field in the midst of the golden plovers (29 total AGPL in that field). We enjoyed better looks after driving further down the road as it fed. Unfortunately the bird was right at the limit of what can be digiscoped and still be identifiable. Below are the only two images I got that you can sort of tell anything from... We also had 3 Common Nighthawks, a Bobolink, and at least 80 Brewer's Blackbirds in the area. I would suggest that people stop and scope every field as it is very easy to just quickly scan over buffies.