For the Birds: Sandpiper in the puddle

Here’s the latest For the Birds column …

Photo by Chris Bosak
A least sandpiper seen in New England.

This moment existed only because of the heavy rains we experienced last week. The body of water was small, shallow, algae-ridden and not at all something to behold.

OK, it was a puddle. No more, no less … your typical run-of-the-mill puddle.

Until a least sandpiper showed up and transformed the puddle into an exotic waterscape. The small shorebird was migrating south earlier this week and saw the puddle as the perfect place to rest and perhaps find an easy meal.

It had flown in from somewhere up north and was on its way to points south. But for a few hours anyway, home was a puddle in New England.

The bird paid little attention to me as I watched and photographed it for several minutes. Migrating birds can be like that. They are intensely focused on fueling and resting for their long journey.

The funny thing about the sighting was the location of the puddle. It exists on and off — depending on the weather — at a dirt parking area that Continue reading

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Spring migration under way; don’t forget about shorebirds

Photo by Chris Bosak
A dunlin walks through the shallow water of Long Island Sound in Westport, Connecticut, during Nov. 2017.

The spring migration is under way and many birds have made appearances in New England already. Birds such as red-winged blackbirds started showing up in February but the spring migration here is still in the beginning stages. By the end of April and into May, we’ll be hitting full stride.

Today I heard my first eastern phoebe. That, to me, is a true sign of spring. I’ve also seen a few American woodcock, thousands of mergansers, a handful of hawks, and several great blue herons flying with large sticks in their bills.

Eventually, all the talk will be about warblers and other songbirds. But we have a few weeks before that happens. To me, the large flocks of shorebirds that move through New England is an underrated aspect of spring migration. Shorebird migration is underrated in general, probably because it is so spread out. The northward movements start in late March and April and continue all the way into June. The southward movements start in July and continue into November. Of course, many shorebirds remain in New England throughout the winter.

So while we are excited to see the ducks, songbirds, hawks and other birds return to New England, don’t forget about the shorebirds dotting our saltwater and freshwater shorelines.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Dunlins stand in the shallow water of Long Island Sound in Westport, Connecticut, during Nov. 2017.

A few more shots of the semipalmated plover

Photo by Chris Bosak A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

The wild ponies are coming next, I promise. But first a few more shots of the semipalmated plover I spotted at Assateauge Island National Seashore.

Photo by Chris Bosak A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Semipalmated plover at Assateague

Photo by Chris Bosak  A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Semipalmated plovers are fairly common sightings up and down the coast, including New England, but I got a good look at this bird as it hunted the shoreline of a marsh at Assateague Island National Seashore. I even caught him pulling a worm of some sort out of the mud.

Photo by Chris Bosak  A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A semi-palmated plover looks for food at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, summer 2018.

Beachgoers asked to: ‘Fish, swim and play from 50 yards away’

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

An important press release from American Bird Conservancy

Washington, D.C. — As millions of vacationing Americans head to their nearest beach destination for surf and sun this summer, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is urging beachgoers to be mindful of the many beach-nesting birds that will be tending to their nests and newly hatched young.

 

“Young birds have a tough go of things during their early days, so they really need our help. They face being trampled by unaware beachgoers, run over by motorized vehicles, or killed by predators. Even people simply getting too close can cause nest abandonment,” said Kacy Ray, Gulf Conservation Program Manager for ABC’s Gulf Beach-Nesting Bird Conservation Program.

 

“The best thing for beachgoers to do is to avoid getting close to areas where larger congregations of birds are gathered, and to always respect areas that are roped off or marked with signs designating an area that is used by nesting birds,” said Ray. “The habitat for these birds is diminishing every year Continue reading

Killdeer doing what Killdeer do to keep the species going

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer pair copulates in Darien in early April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer pair copulates in Darien in early April 2015.

The day after photographing a Killdeer walking along the snow-covered ground of Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien, Conn., I returned to the same spot to see what other birds might be around.

I watched a few Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks in the small pond, but they stayed out of photographic range. It was good to see them anyway, of course.

Then I spotted a Killdeer somewhat near the pond’s edge. What the heck, I thought, may as well take some photographs. I grabbed a few shots and almost started to drive away until I noticed another Killdeer not far away. I almost drove away again as the new Killdeer was not adding any new photographic opportunities. I was happy to see it, don’t get me wrong, but I was ready to move on with me day.

I put the camera back on front seat and reached for the gear shift when I heard a long and consistent “piping.” What are they up to, I thought. Instinctually I got the camera ready again and, sure enough, the male climbed on top of the female and did what comes naturally in the natural world. The continuation of the species … it’s a beautiful thing.

Killdeer handles the cold and snow

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer stands in the snow at a cemetery in southern New England in late March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer stands in the snow at a cemetery in southern New England in late March 2015.

One of the drawbacks to being an early northward migrant is that they are subject to the whims of the early spring New England weather. Will it be hot, cold, just right? Raining, snowing?  The birds that show up in March are subjected to it all. But they’ve been doing it for generations, so for the most part, they can handle whatever is thrown at them.

Killdeer are one of these early migrants. They mate and nest earlier than most birds, too. So a little snow is no big deal for these “shorebirds.” The snow does make for nice photos, though.