Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Peregrine, Knots and Godwit (not) - 17 Aug 2014

I rode out to Cell 3 from the Roberts Road entrance to check water levels and shorebirds shortly after 4 pm this afternoon.  A Whimbrel and Marbled Godwit had been reported yesterday.

A juvenile Bald Eagle was sitting on a small island in the middle of the Humphries Unit, and apparently had been there since noon.  I spent a few minutes getting a few digiscoped images from well over 200' away.

I met Dr. Larry Haugh (Professor of Statistics, University of Vermont) in the south end of Cell 3, and after exchanging greetings, learned that he was here for the first time. So, as soon as I got him oriented to his surroundings, we spent some time scoping shorebirds on the mudflats and peninsula.  Water levels were continuing to rise, and mudflats were disappearing.  American White Pelicans continue in good numbers (70+) at the tip of the peninsula, but only a handful of Semipalmated Sandpipers were working the shorelines.

A pair of Red Knots were foraging at the tip of the peninsula!

We did see the American Avocet, several Lesser and Greater Scaup, Green- and Blue-winged Teal among dozens of Mallard, but not a whole lot else of interest.  Caspian, Forster's and Common Terns were scattered among dozens of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, while Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets were scattered along the shoreline in the NE corner of the cell. Bank and Tree Swallows were working the tops of the water in both Cell 3 and Humphries Unit.

We headed to the west side of Cell 3 when the entire gull colony in the north end took flight. Peregrine Falcon! I managed to get some long-distance flight shots as the falcon strafed the mudflats and what few shorebirds were still around. After a few passes it headed north toward the Vermet Unit. While reviewing pics I could confirm that it was a juvenile and (more importantly) not banded!

We spent a bit of time following flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers fly back and forth between the north and south ends, and at one point I spotted the pair of Knots with one flock.  They eventually landed back in the north end, where I was able to get a couple of digiscoped images for record.

As we scanned the gull flock that was now returning to roost, I spotted what I believe is the Marbled Godwit that had been reported earlier. Unfortunately, its head was below the surface and not coming back up.  It was dead... Examination of the bird showed primaries and tail patterns that were distinctive and looked good for the godwit.  Here's a photo of a Marbled Godwit from Florida earlier in the year for comparison.

With the sun starting to disappear we walked back to Roberts Rd., pausing just long enough to scope a flock of Mallard that contained two female-type Northern Pintail, and a family of Common Gallinule.  Another juvenile Bald Eagle was in the trees over the parking lot.

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